Now showing : Metamorphosis

Let me show you what’s in my current  Nature Vistas and their Metamorphosis .

Recently I had been watching a different kind of ‘Now Showing ‘. I discovered a new kind of cinema where all you need are your open senses and to be in a state of mindfulness. There’s never a VIP  premiere since all shows are visible worldwide,accessible to anyone who are interested.The only difference is that they may vary depending on which region you are. While the rest of the world is too busy looking after the complicated version of beauty, I opt for the off beaten path.

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Now showing : Nature’s artwork

There’s something about the magical beauty of spider webs during Fall. It’s one of the best natural artwork that you can see. The pattern, the intricate design, truly, a spider’s silk is amazing.Don’t miss a chance to see a cobweb in glistening dew during cold early mornings. Fall is their season, normally they are regarded as dirt, a nuisance, but during Autumn, it’s their time to shine. They are regarded as beautiful, and worthy.

I saw the one  shown in above photo last Sunday, its hanging above the railing of the suspension bridge along the Danube river. I was cycling so I need to stop for a minute to get a proper photo before its gone.Sure thing, it is worth the stop.

 

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Now Showing : True colors

Moving in Germany have introduced me to a new attitude of awareness. I thought that my life had slowed down, downsized, & somewhat minimized, I was wrong– I was rather escalated. Wander tags have taught me a lot about simple things in life that has huge impact. I realized that I was not aware of these when I’m always in a hurry and the only colors that is ever-present in my mind is the RAL ( German Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung) since its part of my work. I was even good at creating different colors out of the basics. But nature has taught me something; True Colors.

Do you know that leaves has 3 (Three) pigments? It has chlorophyll (green) , carotenoid (yellow,orange,and brown), and the anthocyanin (red) . In one season, the leaves shows a grand display of all of these like a slide show.

Because the days are shorter & there’s not enough sun,the leaves can’t produce more chlorophyll ( or their food). Rather than struggle to make food through the winter, it shuts down. It stops producing chlorophyll and allows its fall leaves to die. When the tree stops producing chlorophyll, the green color leaves the foliage and you are left with the “true color” of the leaves. Does it ring a bell “You are your truest when you are alone in the dark and no one is watching “.

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Now Showing : Chasing after fallen leaves

We are running on the last quarter of the year, only a few more months and the year ends. Time to chase old dreams, rekindle dimmed sights. Do you have anything worth pursuing  before this year becomes a history? I have mine and I’m still bent on chasing after it. Chasing fallen leaves doesn’t always mean gathering a mess, life-less, unworthy piles of leaves. It’s also an act of being in control and staying tuned with your desires and getting ready for the next season.

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Now Showing : Not all who wanders are Lost

If I didn’t put a purpose in all my wanderings then I wouldn’t be able to write about these things. As I watched my daughter wander in the forest, I can see that she learns more about the leaves, trees, its color, and the sound of nature more than she sees in her books. She becomes aware of the sound of birds, and the colors of wild flowers. Suddenly  I love the concept of learning through play–it’s a magical world for kids. I thought everything around me changes and undergoing metamorphosis, little did I know that I, myself, is the big change.

 

What was the last movie you’ve watched?

What’s  “Now Showing” in your life ? or maybe “Coming Soon”?

 

Adventures with the LeBlancs | Expat-Mama in Berlin

Few more days & it’s  Halloween!

Time for Jack-o-Lanterns to adorn the doorsteps  and for giant Pumpkins to spice up the chilly Autumn days, for little kiddos to put out their creative costumes as the tale of Frankenstein awakens once again.

We all know that Halloween is typically an American thing. But Halloween in the place where  The Walking Dead is filmed is even more special. A sure threat  for horror & zombie enthusiasts! In Atlanta,where they host a zombie walk, zombie run, zombie convention, the Buried Alive Film Fest, and Atlanta Horror Fest. Even the movie Zombieland was filmed in Atlanta.

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Meet the Le Blancs! Spreading their Southern charm from Atlanta to Berlin

But how does a Southern Girl from Atlanta, Georgia a.k.a  Zombie capital of the World turn her own tiny  balcony in Prenzlauer Berg  in Berlin into a pumpkin patch for her little Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) to do trick-or-treating during Halloween ?

It’s time to meet the LeBlancs for us to know.

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Little Red Riding hood from Atlanta arrives in Berlin &  all set for Halloween!
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Little Miss Payton with her Pumpkins in their Balcony in Berlin

For our 6th series in our amazing Expat-Mamas around the World, we are featuring Christy LeBlanc, an American Expat Mama in Berlin, Germany. From the land of Big  Peaches, Coca Cola  and famed  Hip hop capital of the world, Christy spreads her Southern charm into the Street Art kaleidoscope– Berlin. Christy moved into Germany last year with her husband Adam,whom she met during her college days, and her 3-year-old  Miss Payton plus their King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Macy.

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The LeBlancs exploring Europe in colors

Here’s my Interview Story with Christy about her new found  second-home & fascinating adventures  as a  Trail-blazing wife and first time Expat-Mama in Berlin .

Expat -Mama in Berlin : Adventures abroad with the LeBlancs

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All love starts & ends here

Christy’s Background 

Christy is the Blogger behind the Our Adventures in Germany. She’s an Elementary School Teacher and a  hands-on home maker. She loves traveling ,Crafting, Monograms, Baking & being a personal photographer of Miss Payton. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia in the US. Christy was raised in a traditional Southern home and surrounded with lots of family and grew up with home-made cooking.

On being a Southern Girl native

From a young age, I was taught to always respect my elders, have the best of manners, and above all get a good education. After graduating from high school, I moved to Athens Georgia to attend The University of Georgia. Little did I know that when I walked into Snelling Dining Hall just two weeks after starting college, I would meet my future husband! Adam and I dated all through college, began our first jobs after graduating (Adam is a CPA and I was an elementary school teacher at the time.) We got married on the 4th of July the summer of 2009 and four years later welcomed our sweet daughter, Payton, into the world.

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Expecting baby Girl # 2 in November 2016 in Germany

On being a First time Expat-Mama & Expecting,again!

When Adam’s job asked us to move abroad to Berlin Germany in 2015, we jumped at the chance to travel Europe and experience life in another country! It was difficult at first adjusting to such a different lifestyle, but now we love it! We are also expecting another baby girl in November.

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Up close and personal in Berlin Wall

 

On Living in Berlin and getting used to walking

Living in Berlin has been such an amazing experience! We made a big change moving from a house in a  quiet suburb of Atlanta to a flat in the much more urban environment of Berlin. One big change was getting used to walking everywhere and taking public transportation. We sold both of our cars when we moved to Berlin and have actually gotten along quite well without them! It is so easy to use the public transportation out here, and I have thoroughly enjoyed walking all over the city!

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Experiencing cold, long German winters

Life in Prenzlauer Berg, Christmas Markets & Kindercafes

We are in love with the beautiful neighborhood that we live in, Prenzlauer Berg! Our flat is located on a breath-taking cobblestone street with a view of the TV Tower and of a historic water tower from the 1800’s. We live in a traditional Altbau (prewar apartment) that is over 100 years old. Our neighborhood is very family friendly! There are “kindercafes” (child-friendly cafes that have toys and activities for children) everywhere and playgrounds on almost every block.

 

 

On German Childcare

When we first moved to Prenzlauer Berg and began looking into childcare, we had no idea how difficult it would be to find a spot at an available kindergarten or “kita” in Prenzlauer Berg! Apparently our neighborhood has one of the highest birthrates in all of Europe, so practically everyone here has to put their names on waiting lists for months before securing a spot. After waiting about 2 1/2 months, Payton was finally accepted into a public kita only a 10 minute walk from our flat! It is an all-German kita, and Payton is the only American child! The benefit is that she is picking up the German language very quickly! I was surprised to learn that German kindergartens are very different than American preschools. They are less-structured and favor more of a Montessori Approach. They also do mixed-age grouping, which is not as common in the United States.

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Why it is awesome to be a Kid in Germany?

On Play-comes-First approach in learning 

Payton’s classroom is very child-centered and focuses mainly on free play and socialization. American preschools traditionally have more of a disciplined, academic environment than German kindergartens. As a former preschool teacher I struggled with the differences initially, but now I have embraced it! Payton has learned so much, and she is so happy at kita! In Berlin they teach the children to be independent from a young age, and I was amazed to see Payton drinking out of a cup, using the bathroom by herself, and even serving her own food at lunchtime – all at age 2!

On Germany’s generous support for Children or Kindergeld

One of the other incredible things about living in Berlin is the financial perks! German kindergartens are completely free for children to attend until they begin primary school around age 6! In the United States parents have to pay hundreds of dollars on daycare and preschool before sending their children to primary school! Berlin also has something called the “kindergeld” which entitles parents to around 180 euros per child to offset the financial costs of raising a family!

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More quality time with the family

On Quality of Life for Expats and their family

The quality of life here is amazing! The living expenses are very affordable in Berlin! It is also so much more relaxed than the fast-paced life in the United States. Adults tend to work fewer hours, families spend more time together, and everyone is outside all of the time enjoying the weather! During the warmer months the cafes are packed with people enjoying glasses of wine and cups of coffee, and the playgrounds are filled with children. The companies out here offer a generous amount of vacation time and paternity leave, which is a huge difference from the United States! Also, everyone out here travels all of the time since you can easily take a short flight or train from Berlin just about anywhere in Europe for a long weekend! We have seen so many amazing places since moving to Germany!

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What to expect when you’re expecting

 How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country? 

On being pregnant in Berlin

It has been an interesting experience being pregnant with our second child in Berlin. The medical care in Germany is excellent for pregnant women! A majority of women in Berlin see a doctor and a midwife over the course of their pregnancy. After the birth, the midwife takes on the primary role of providing care for the mother and baby. I love that the midwife will come to your home for up to 8 weeks post birth to do medical check ups and even give helpful advice on infant care and breastfeeding! I have also felt a lot more involved in my pregnancy here in Berlin as compared to the United States.My doctor and midwife both work at small practices with very personalized care. My doctor does ultrasounds at every appointment, so I have gotten the privilege of watching our baby girl grow and change over the months of my pregnancy. In the U.S. I only had 3 ultrasounds during my first pregnancy. My midwife comes to our flat for most of our appointments and has spent so much time with me explaining how healthcare in Germany works and what to expect when I give birth in Berlin.

On German Mutterpass as the Lifeline of every Expecting Mama

Another thing that is different in Germany is you are given a “mutterpass” at your first prenatal appointment which is a small booklet where the doctor and midwife record your medical history, tests results, and appointments throughout your pregnancy. You are supposed to carry it with you at all times in case you are in an emergency situation and need to provide information on your pregnancy.

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The Life of a Southern Girl in Berlin

On bridging the cultural Gap

It is tough raising our 3-year-old and preparing to give birth thousands of miles away from our family. It’s probably the biggest sacrifice we made when we moved out here. Luckily, our family has come out to visit us here in Berlin on multiple occasions, and we have been able to make a couple trips back to the U.S., as well. Thanks to technology we are also able to stay in constant touch with texts, e-mails, and Facetime!

 What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?

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Raising  a happy, independent, Bilingual Third culture Kid

On the Laid back parenting of German parents

It has been interesting adjusting to raising a child here in Berlin! Adam and I were both raised in the south where parents are very hands-on and expect good manners at all times. We were expected to say “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” to our elders and to be gracious and kind to everyone no matter what. In Berlin, parents tend to be a bit more hands-off compared to Americans when it comes to raising their children. If you go to any Berlin playground, you will notice that most of the parents are sitting on the sidelines instead of hovering over their children. Parents in Berlin believe that the best way for the kids to learn how to get along with others is by working things out on their own. Unlike American parents you generally won’t see Berlin parents intervene when children get into a disagreement with another child (unless of course it escalates to something more physical). Berlin children learn from a young age to be independent and to stand up for themselves, which are definitely great qualities!

Since we will be returning to the United States next summer, I do worry sometimes that I don’t do a good enough job of balancing both cultures. I want Payton to be able to adjust well to being in an “American style” preschool and be able to get along well with her American peers. My hope is that Payton will end up being a very well-rounded child after being exposed to more than one culture!

On raising an Independent Bilingual Kid

Overall, I think Payton has truly benefitted from the German culture! Not only is she soaking up a new language, but she has acquired so many new skills just from attending kindergarten! The teachers at kita expect the children to do daily tasks on their own and encourage creativity and independence in everything the kids do.I have watched Payton’s confidence soar over the last year. I know she is going to be very sad to leave Berlin when we move; she loves our life here and gets homesick whenever we travel back to the  United States for extended visits.

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Integrating into German Culture & making an Impact as an Expat-mama

 How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence? 

I think I make a difference as an Expat Mama in Berlin by not only being open to learning all about German culture, but also by sharing some of my own American culture, as well! I have done my best to have an open mind from the start, and I have tried to embrace the new language and customs. Southern hospitality is very important where I am from in the U.S., and I love sharing that part of my American life with Germans that I meet here in Berlin. I try to do small things like deliver hot meals to new mothers (as is customary in the U.S.), bring small gifts and thank you notes to Payton’s teachers at kita, and invite neighbors over to take part in our American customs like Halloween and Thanksgiving! One of the best parts about living in such an international city like Berlin has been meeting new people from all over the world and sharing our different cultures with each other. I feel that my time here in Berlin has really expanded my views. It has been an incredible learning experience that will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on my life even after we return to the United States.

Want to know more about LeBlancs? Christy shares her fabulous adventures in her Instagram page and in her personal Expat Blog.

Thank you so much Christy for allowing me to share about your life as an Expat Mama and being part of this wonderful series.You have a beautiful family &  I am glad to be in your circle.

P.S. All photos are of personally owned by Christy LeBlanc and should you wish to use it or ‘borrow’ it, please do mention her out of courtesy.

Have you enjoyed this post?  Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, and of course, how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany.

Follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks

 

 

Frankenstein in Ingolstadt

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Ask any kid during Halloween of which character  they wanna be and it is for sure that one of them would shout   ‘Frankenstein’. Do you know Frankenstein?

Now who would not know this monster, I think everyone does because  it’s as famous as Mickey mouse ,Olaf and Winnie the Pooh. Although this 8 ft. monster is not always favored by babies and toddlers because of its scary face and humongous built, it is for sure a favorite among Halloween parties. Frankenstein the monster becomes a world-wide enigma  and is a part of any childhood ( even adults!)  since numerous movies and world literature were adapted based on this novel.

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I admit that I knew Frankenstein myself, but I never ever imagine that I would live in the place where the setting of this gothic novel is based upon.When I found out about this, I was definitely itching to…

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Fluorescent Nature | Shine

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Dewy droplets like Swarovski crystals

After the rain..there’s a display of natural lights created when the sun finally shines after drenching rains. I love it when the sun suddenly  creates a wonderful pattern in the grass and leaves, the droplets suspended in it forming like fragile Swarovski crystals, beautiful in a simple way.

 

Have you watched nature closely today?

In response to this week’s WPC | Shine

Life without TV

So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.  ~Roald Dahl

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Life without television

For almost half a year now, we don’t own bought a TV.

Yes, you heard that right, almost 210 days now without the Bubble tube in our humble home. With today’s  Plasma & LED flat screen TV generation, these days without television made a  difference in our lives. It looks weird not having it if you are used to having a TV in your house. It’s like not having a smartphone. For me, I don’t have such relationship with TV, nor having it didn’t make me  feel outdated or insecure. Although our guests are wondering why we don’t have it. Since they  don’t  have anything to watch while they ogle in our living room,they can just admire our Solar Eclipse photos beautifully hanged in our wall.

I’m one of the person who can say that I can live without TV. This is a personal choice, and not because I am trying to be different or minimalist.It is as normal as some people can’t live without their phone, their car, coffee, or even Lush’s bath bombs, but some can. It’s not something that you’ll die when you don’t watch TV.When most homes today have one or more TV, adding up the smartphones and tablet technology, I can really see that the concept of having a TV in one’s household depends on personal choices from person to person & their lifestyle.

After all, you’re the only one who can dictate what kind of relationship you can have with television.

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Are you still enamored with Black & white TV?

What kind of relationship  do you have with your TV?

I remember seeing my father fixing our television. He died at a young age and my fond memories of seeing him trying out his best to be the clever Handyman technician-trouble shooting geek to fix our television set when it’s not functioning well. Way back then, flat screens are not yet the fad, but rather TV’s with big picture-tubes. Obviously you can’t hang them in the wall. They come in compartments and stands. My grandmother even owned a TV with partitions. Eventually, it turned into a side table. We loved to watch cartoons in our black  n’ white TV as a family but later on we had the colored one. It is already a prized possession that we have. Colored TV’s on those days are expensive and you need to have a special antenna or subscribe in a cable connection to get nice shows.We have restrictions though, we can only watch a few hours on weekdays and after nap on weekdays. My mother says we can’t watch too much TV because of electric bill. I remember that many of our neighbors doesn’t have a TV yet so they flocked to one of our neighbor who placed their TV in their garden so people can watch some favorite soap operas or sports match.

Life was so simple back then.

Watching TV  means unquestionable happiness, a privilege especially  for someone surrounded with poverty .

When I was living in Kuwait, we had TV provided in our flat. Most flats are equipped with modern televisions and buying flat TV is common for Expats since you don’t have to worry about electric bill.You can have as many as electric appliances as you can. We subscribe to local cable from Philippines so me & my flatmates can watch local news from our home country. Normally we only watch TV during mornings while having breakfast and after work. It’s the only thing you have if there is a Sandstorm. I admit that TV was never a necessity for me. It’s not like that my world would crumble if I don’t watch the latest TV shows or sitcoms. Even with the soaring heat in Kuwait, I managed to be outgoing and spent less sitting in front of it. I known some Expats who can watch  TV all day long and can’t live without it. It was accepted as a “favorite hobby“, right? Our Harris has 2 TV. He would place one of his TV out there in front of his room so he can enjoy watching Football match with his friends while drinking Sheesha. Inside the most traditional tent and Diwaniya Halls in Kuwait are  big flat screen TV where they can enjoy good Arabic Ghawa coffee, tea & dates. Having the TV background adds to the coziness of their habitual Diwaniya.

Watching TV is a  way to temporarily disconnect yourself from your world &  lose yourself  in another dimension, in a medium called TV. One can find a sense of belonging while they’re absorbed watching their drama series, beauty online shopping, or for men–sports. Nowadays, who needs a TV when you have smartphones?

“Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.”

~ Ann Landers

When  we had our daughter, I watched TV as seldom as the raindrops in Kuwait. I even watched news in zero volume! Looks weird, right? For the reasons that I don’t wanna wake up my daughter when she’s napping. Our living room was connected to her room so the white noise from TV is something I try to avoid. They say that letting your child watch TV makes you a bad parent, but what do you call when parents letting their kids watch You tube, nursery videos in their iPad? If you think that watching TV is nothing but a waste of time compared to reading, then what can you call a person who is glued to a computer, or his/her phone? Bottom line is, everything that is excessive, is abusive.

Watching TV can be a me time for others who just want a simple break and time to relax. Going home from a hard day’s work and  to be in your couch , watching with  warm coffee or tea means total bliss.  It is like cuddled up with potato chips with your favorite book. A simple escape or retreating. It’s the same when I absolutely enjoy my own “me time“when I go on my Wandertags,cycling, or baking goodies for my family. I knew someone that instead of watching TV, she just clean, clean & clean.It’s therapeutic for her.

If I prefer reading interesting Blogs, your Blog for example instead of watching TV, does it mean something? After all, whatever medium it is, every one of us has their own ways of “escaping “from this crazy world and signing-in to another world. It becomes a habitual log-in activity.

Do you have a favorite TV show? How often do you watch TV?

 

 

 

 

Little Expats and Grandparents

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My daughter at 2 months old with her Oma

I am one of the kids who had normal‘ childhood spent with Grandparents. My Lolo & Lola (grandparents in Tagalog) live just a few kilometers from us and we often visit them especially on weekends.On special occasions, they were always present.Being in a big family,we grew up messing up their house together with my cousins, having sleepover and dipping in the nearby fish pond. Being clannish is a  norm in Philippines and extended families are living close-by.Grandparents normally fill-in during the times where both parents are unable to attend to the kids.In Philippines, there’s a high percentage that kids grow up close to their grandparents.

As an Expat living miles & miles away from my home country, I reflect on the life of my daughter not having this kind of “normal “childhood that I had. Announcing the birth of my daughter to my mother is coupled with ‘sadness‘ knowing that my mother lives so far away from us. My daughter was born in Kuwait while her grandparents are in the  Philippines and in the Netherlands.Now that we’re living in Germany, closer to one, and yet, still separated by distance . Both worlds are far, but totally embraceable. Seeing the fantasy-reality of an Expat Life, I realized that Grand-Parenting is a luxury that Expat kids doesn’t have naturally due to the distance factor. It needs to be worked on.

 Grand-parenting is the second important family role you could teach your child, most especially to an Expat Child.It is your responsibility as a parent to bridge this gap, or else, their Grandparents will become a stranger in their eyes.

Does your child knows her Grandparents?

What is special about the relationship of Expat child and their Grandparents?

Their best gift is : LOVE

When I become a parent, I realized just how vital the Grandparent-child interaction is in the early years of a child development. It is truly a special bond. You can’t really appreciate how big the hearts of Grandparents for their Grandchildren unless you have a child of your own.If you don’t grow up having this relationship or your Grandparents are gone before you were born then this feeling might be totally unknown to you. Grandparents could be the best caregivers, and often times, provides genuine parenting support for busy parents, and usually without a cost. If you are a parent & you have your parents living close by and giving you constant support on parenting, then you must be lucky.Very lucky. Not everyone have this privilege.

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Handmade shirt from my Oma.

There is something about the love that only an Oma & Opa  ( Gransparents in Dutch) can give to their Grandchildren.Their presence transmits to their grandchildren that security and protection is all theirs, right in their loving arms.

My daughter’s Oma & Opa flew to Kuwait when she was born and was too excited to see their first interracial grand-daughter.They are not the youngest anymore but they are very keen in having a healthy relationship with all their grandchildren.But with my daughter,I find it is quite special since we live far away from them.

I remember the first time my parents in law saw their grandchild.It was a special time. Along with their big hearts, they brought 2 suitcases filled with gifts. I really don’t know how did they managed to do that. They were really clever in Packing. But I am not talking here about the amount of gifts they’ve brought with their flight. I’m talking about their effort to bring the best gift that they could give to their grandchild.

Their presence is the best present.

They have brought the walking bike that belongs to my husband since He was 1.Now my daughter rides it.Such an important “Toy”for her. I find this truly heart warming because they transmit such positive values on Family attachment.I am sure that when my daughter learned about this story when she grew up, it would certainly have an impact for her. That her Oma & Opa cared about her.

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I love my Papa’s bicycle!

They’re passing on Family heritage

The moment you introduce your child to her Grandparents, you create the connection and letting them into the path of Family Heritage. Who else can be their role models? Who else can tell better stories about you to your sons & daughters more than your own parents ?

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Postcards from Philippines: In the loving arms of her Lola

There is something about interaction both with young & old that is very important.Both young & old have an impact  to each other. I almost cried when my mother carried and hugged my daughter for the first time when we visited Philippines last May.. Looking back at this moment, all I wanted to say to my mother was : Thank You.

I knew that those moments for a Grandmother is precious, a priceless one. With the whole time that we’ve stayed with her, my daughter felt her love, her same  caring nature that nurture her other 5 grandchildren. A Grandmother’s love is endless and has no boundaries.Many times when my daughter is sick, the first thing I ask  for advice is my Mother. Grandparents have wisdom that has been gained through time and reliable.

With today’s modern technology and ease of travelling, living far away from Grandparents is no longer an excuse for this connection to be not established. Distance is the only factor that makes this relationship difficult, but then, there are ways to bridge the gap.There are so much fun  ways for Expat kids to learn to connect & build this relationship with their far away Grandparents. With internet,it’s as simple as  Whatsapp or Kakaotalk away, or more often, a Skype call could do wonders since sending letters is so-old fashioned nowadays. For Expat Kids, the physical gap can be bridged with constant visits, but then, constant contact will solidify the bond.

I just knew that hopefully, someday, I would also have this special role…of being a parent again, to my future Grandchild. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a visit or through internet, as long as it is a real connection.

When was the last time you call your Grandma? or your Opa?

 

 

 

 

 

2,500 Feet Underground : Enigma of the Sumaguing Cave

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Underground wonders inside the Cave of Sumaguing

When I saw today’s Daily Prompt : Underground, my nostalgic memory brings me back to one of my unforgettable Backpacking adventures, my first Cave Spelunking. I can only think of the time when we explored the Underground caves of Sumaguing in Sagada in Philippines and it still brings me back the chills.

What I discovered inside the cave was beyond my expectation. When I looked at the photos I took with my old  phone, I just didn’t do any justice to it.All we have is a kerosene lamp to guide us through the darkness. All I have is determination to get through the loops and the challenging cave connection.

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Cave Spelunking in Sagada

Cave Spelunking is something that calls for an adventurous spirit. It is something for someone who is willing to explore the unknown and unveil the enigma of the destination.

I still couldn’t believe that up there in the mountains of Sagada lies an underground mystery, buried thousand of years ago, under 2,500 feet underground.Just imagine a sight of burial graves of about 500 years old before entering this. When I touched the glistening and golden formations inside Sumaguing cave, I felt for a while the cave’s mysterious aura is hovering all the visitors who dare to explore it.Everywhere you see, it’s unexplainable, how could nature be so profound, yet so beautiful.

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Feeling the enigma of the underground beauty of Sumaguing Cave

Beauty underground is rare, It is found by those who seek it.

 

Have you ever been 2,500 feet under and explored something beautiful?

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Underground

October thoughts and Autumn spells

Chilly winds, foggy mornings, kids going crazy about Horse Chestnuts, pumpkins all over, Bavarians in wool sweaters, hot chocolate drinks, dried crispy leaves, edgy boots on sale,warm leggings and wool socks, the smell of freshly baked pies, and of course, Halloween mania. Halloween here might be unique since Frankenstein was ‘born’ and created here in Bavaria.

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Drenched in October rains…
When Sharon of Sunshine and Celandines brag about her Wildlife snaps in October, I thought it might be a great idea to document a post about how Fall looks like here in my side of the world and putting into writing my thoughts on it. After all, I live here now, and I’m trying to integrate as much as possible, living like a local. Seeing things like a local does.

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Thoughts on October : One of the hardest things to do in life is letting go of what you thought was real…and moving on.
I have been looking forward  to my first Autumn here in Bavaria. As I walked around, I could  see that most trees are still green but starting to fade away. Now that it is only  mid-October, temps could go as low as 2 deg C and definitely not a leggings weather for me anymore. Almost everyday , foggy mornings greeted us in our doorsteps, making it so hard to wake up.

Sometimes I think that it’s so strange to find everything so beautiful during Autumn, where in fact, everything is actually dying. Don’t you think so?

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Autumn leaves I have collected from our walks.I am planning to make a wreath out of these or just let the Toddler crush it.

Autumn, the season that teaches us that change can be beautiful. Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall.  I still couldn’t believe that it’s been a quarter of the year already that I’m living here. Would I still feel the same after 3 years? Would I still be amazed by Autumn? Maybe still too early to say, but then I’m starting to get a hang of the changes.Living here is actually not that bad.

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The only leaf and budding flower leaf on this tree.

There is something beautiful and revitalizing about October. I have done some leaf-watching and I observed that when the leaves fall the world is surrendering, letting go of the pieces and parts that can no longer serve in a positive way.

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The season where molds shows its best colors too!
While wandering on my weekly Wandertags, I noticed that trees hold strong to their core and survive the storms; but every good tree knows that as time goes by, the leaves will come back and we all get to start again.I still need to be more like the trees, and let the dead leaves drop. The good thing about wandering, you get so close to nature and you witness how beautiful they are despite what changes in season they are in.

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The colors of Fall in Bavaria
Of course, Autumn won’t be complete without comfort food, and home made baking. Recently,I got inspired by one of my dear friend, Ann of GrubbsnCritters for doing some Fall baking. You’ve got to love her crazy spooky Casper’s  Pannakoek (Pancakes)  and so I decided to go hunt some new ingredients to make something yummy as we snuggled up in this sweater season.I started it by making some German Chocolate Almond Pudding. I was invited by my German friend on her birthday last week and she made one so I grab her recipe and make one for my family. I’ve learned that during birthdays, they are making their own cakes here. Not like in Kuwait that there’s so many bakeshop where you can buy cakes for any occassion. I’m planning to make some more, maybe the Orange Vanilla next time, or yet, the Pumpkin Spice.Thanks to google translate that helps me shopping for baking ingredients.

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My German Chocolate Almond Pudding 
You see,October here in Bavaria is turning out to be a beautiful month, and I wanna see it all in full bloom.

How’s Fall in your area look like? Do you also have a Fall Bucket list?

 

Make sure to hit the Follow button for more Expat stories on this Blog, and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

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Raising my Kung Fu Baby | Expat-Papa in Germany

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Raising the Kung Fu Baby in Germany { Timo with his son, Nathan }

Try to Picture this:  An excerpt of not-so-Ordinary Life

-Your Father is German, your Mother is Finnish.You’re born in Germany and yet you’ve spent a considerable amount of your childhood in Finland. Growing up, you have a fair share of Finnish & German culture instilled in your brain but somehow you felt confused where is your real home country. On the positive side, you smile for a fact that you hold 2 passports & 2 nationalities. It’s no surprise anymore that you are Bilingual yourself. Suddenly your life turned upside down when fate let  East  go to the West and you fall in love with a Chinese woman. Fast forward, you got married, and now had a child growing in an interracial household and quite obvious a mixed genes. Now, you probably noticed that history repeats itself.You are raising your adorable Kung Fu baby  from the Scandinavian environment to a crazy Chinese diversity and now, he is toddling back to your own roots, to the land of your father,Germany. Doesn’t this made you smile?

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Aside from multiple languages, this is an indicator of an Interracial couple raising a Interracial Kid

Above is the story of Half German,Half Finnish Expat-Papa.How does he handles all these while raising another multi-cultural son?

For our 5th feature in our amazing  Expat Mamas around the World interview -stories, we  are featuring Timo, an Expat-Papa, who  who will share to us his perspectives about his unique Fatherhood in raising his son in Germany. We are so used to seeing Mommy Blogs and Motherhood stories, but how about Fathers? It’s not common to see a man writing about his experiences as a father and Blogs about it, let alone totally embracing the adventure of being in an Interracial marriage, right?

I am very thankful that Timo allowed me to have this interview-story and I am hoping I could do justice in sharing with you how  fascinating his journey through Fatherhood.

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Meet the CrazyChineseFamily interracial couple , in a snapshot before Nathan comes in their world.

Here’s my interview-Story from Timo, His own Expat-Papa story;

Expat-Papa Story : Raising my Kung-Fu Baby in Germany

Timo is the Blogger behind the amazing Blog CrazyChineseFamily“. His superb writing skills grab him the ‘NepaliAustralian Blog Award’for Best personal Blog for 2015. His Blog is creating such a stir in the web ever since He wrote in humurous yet  beautiful sarcasm about life revolving around with a Crazy chinese family &  the overwhelming crazy stuff of his  one-of-a -kind MIL ( Mother-in-Law) .

He is already a Coffee addict before he got hooked in Blogland. Timo is a proffesional Swimmer, a gamer, a computer geek, an adventurer, and an aspiring Fantasy author that’s why why he keeps a rather exquisite Tolkien & Manga collection. His favorite Title is being the humble father & photographer to his son named Nathan, and Husband to his beautiful Chinese wife. They got married in Two continents and continue to explore places as a family.  Now they are settled and live in Schleswig-Holstein in the  Northern  part of Germany.

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This is how a day in the Neumünsterzoo during Winter looks like.

Tell us About your Background

This is usually an easy question to answer but in my case it is a bit different. Sure, I was born in Germany and lived here for many years however my mother is Finnish and my father is German. Due to this I spent many years also in Finland during my upbringing resulting that I never developed the feeling of having a real home country. For example I lived until 2014 for over 7 years in Finland where I met my wife and now we both live with our little Nathan in Germany, a country which should be my home country but I always feel a bit like a stranger here.

Anyhow as mentioned before we moved to Germany back in 2014 and we are having our own little Export Business for 1 ½ years now. Though it is hard work it is much better in our opinion than our old jobs we had before in Finland, especially as we have much more time with our son.

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When a Blonde Gentleman from the West said “I Do”to one beautiful lady from the East.

On being in an Interracial Marriage

I can’t count the times where people stared at us and wondering why I am married to a Chinese woman.During the first year my wife got a lot of stares from people on the street however it seems most of them got used to it already. In Finland no one really cared about us or Nathan.The thing is, a day in the Life of an Interracial couple has deeper meaning for both of us now.

The funny thing is that both my wife and I couldn’t be more different when it comes to our interests. My wife just loves to relax whenever she has the opportunity in order to watch some Chinese or Korean TV-Shows with tons of snacks while I try to be doing sports whenever it fits into my schedule. This might be also due to my past as a professional swimmer all those years ago which does not allow me to rest too much (otherwise I just feel too guilty). In my opinion those differences don’t matter at all, I even think it makes us more compatible as the differences allow us also do have some time “on our own” with my wife relaxing on the couch and me for example bicycling alone for one or two hours.

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Old  German wedding tradition : Cutting a log represents the first obstacle that the couple must overcome in their Marriage. They must work together to ‘overcome’the obstacle by sawing through the Log.

On Journey to Fatherhood

During my wife’s pregnancy up to the birth of my son, I am the one behind the scenes. I make sure that I am there for them  for all-time support. Of course there is  MIL who insists on doing Zou yuezi for my wife , but my wife is strong enough to be in control of herself and do what’s best for our son & her recovery.  So little talk about how I am handling it as I am too busy preparing everything for the arrival of my son. I am  glad that when my son was born in Finland, I was physically present and we got a family room in the hospital so I could be with them. Fathers normally doesn’t say much but we just worked hard through it. I have my fair share of diaper changing & late nights on the early months but as a Father, I look more ahead for his future. The responsibility of being a role model as well as to provide for the family is my utmost concern especially now that I have a Kung Fu baby in my arms.

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The coolest Baby Monk ever!

Have you seen how Nathan’s room turned out after long hours of hardwork? Don’t you think this  Totoro theme is cool?

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Nathan’s Totoro -themed room-A pure labor of love & hardwork 
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Journey together as Father & Son 

I for myself am planning a great future in sports for him but I will have to see how my wife will approve of it. Of course studies will go ahead of sports but we still have a lot of time to think about it. My wish would be for him to follow my steps into the swimming world or start Taekwondo .

On having the best Maternity Healthcare in Finland 

The best thing about Finland was probably Neuvola, a child healthcare centre, where parents learn everything about having a baby. There the mother gets all health check-ups and after the child is born it also gets all check-ups regularly until elementary school, all for free! To make it even better mothers are getting a baby box with contains everything important for the first month with the baby such as diapers, drinking bottles, clothes (even a snowsuit!) and the box itself can be used as a baby bed as it comes with blanket and a thin mattress.This makes all mothers smile but also for expectant fathers like me.

On Germany as a Kid-Friendly Place to grow up

I myself was born in Germany and my parents raised me well. As a child we lived in the same apartment that we lived right now. Imagine the nostalgia of growing up here & at same time raising your own child. Nathan was even baptized in the same Church that I was baptized. He played with some of my old toys and during our holidays in Finland, we took him to the same Summer cottage that I used to go when I was a kid.

What I like about Germany is that there are many activities for children. It is really awesome being a kid in Germany. Everywhere you can find nice playgrounds and, at least where we live, we have many kind of parks and Zoos within short driving distance which are just perfect for little kids. For example here is a donkey park, a park for old livestock breeds, a park full of boars and deers, a climbing park and so on. To make these parks even better is that each one has great playgrounds where kids can go wild till they are too tired to stay awake for the drive home.It is very normal to put your child in the Kindergarten  (Krippe/Kita or nursery school) especially if both parents are working. But the system in Germany is that you have to enlist your child as soon as possible or you’ll end up in the waiting list waiting for a slot. Even expectant mothers that are still pregnant are already listing their child for a spot.We hope to get my son into the Kindergarten soon.

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Nathan is already a jetsetter baby when He cross continents & visit relatives in China.

On  chinese Diaper-Free Culture  and Unsolicited Advices on Parenting

My wife is Chinese and she have her own background of how a child is being brought up the Chinese way,  which  are absolutely different from a Westerner like me . When  MIL stayed with us, we are bombarded with stuffs that really surprised me. As much as I highly respect my wife’s culture, things like babies wearing the split-pants  and wearing too much of clothes  even it is 30 degrees C just makes me crazy. It’s no fun at all having a kid in split pants and diarrhea. In Finland, it’s normal to take your kids outside even when its freezing cold and have their naps, of course with common sense to dress them up warmly. Even here in Germany, there is no such thing as a bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. In the end, we do what’s best for our child & for us.

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Baby butts & Split pants culture in China for babies (Photo courtesy of Travel Bug Juice)

On  life Essentials in Germany

The food is some other matter…I certainly love all kind of potato dishes which are so common around here but as we live now pretty much between two seas, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, seafood is just everywhere and I just can’t stand it. Not that I hate it but I just don’t like the taste somehow. Sure some standard fish dishes are fine with me but anything beyond that is just killing me. My wife on the other hand has no problems with seafood but she does not really like any food which is not Chinese which brings a whole new level of complications as we have no authentic Chinese restaurants anywhere nearby. Yes she can cook fabulous Chinese dishes which she loves herself but ever since we have our own business she finds very seldom time for that.

On  Life in Finland as an Expat family

When it comes to nature, Finland is by far better than Germany. Germany is  also full of beautiful nature & forests as well but you need to drive a certain time to reach it. I can’t think of a better nature than the place I grew up with. But living in Finland is no cheap at all especially for a family.  Although the standard of living in Germany is also high, I find that the living costs here is much better than what we had in Finland. Of course it varies from different persons and lifestyle.

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Family holidays in Finland

On German warm hospitality 

For my wife the biggest difference compared to Finland was how nice our neighbours are. Many offer to take care of our son when we are too busy, they all have some small talk with us whereas in Finland there was just silence. We barely knew our neighbours though we lived at the same place for five years. That just shows how different social behavior is within those two countries.

On having a Steady support system from Family esp. from the MIL

We were lucky to be one of the privileged Expat family who have the steady family support from both sides of our family. Having a nanny is never a norm in Germany neither in Finland . We are always grateful to have extra help from my MIL visits to us in Finland and here in Germany. She is doting so much love on my son as if he is a our “Little Emperor” but my son is too young to complained from her teachings and her cooking.My mother is  also very present in taking care of Nathan whenever we need extra hand. Even with so much differences on both cultures, I see that my son is endowed with much love from his grandparents.

 How is it being a parent while working? How do you handle the change brought by Fatherhood ? 

On being a hands-on Father

We moved to Germany when our son was just 6 months old. Back then I had stopped my freelance work and my wife was on leave from her work as a beauty consultant. Here in Germany I found rather quickly some new job at a bank but had to give it up due to health issues. During my time at the bank I would leave for work at 6.45 am and be back at home around 5pm giving me barely any time with my son. Things got better though! Since last year my wife and I have our own business and we mostly work from home giving us plenty of time with our son. I am one of the fathers who love to spend more quality time with my family and bond with my son. I love to write about my son and his growth in my Blog.For me, He is our Happiness.

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In the medieval market in Germany

On tough German Bureaucracy 

The biggest struggle we had was when we moved here in Germany.The paperwork was just insane, we needed verified documents for every single office and such documents are not cheap when you need official translations of each one and go to a lawyer to verify them. The silly thing is that different governmental offices which even share the same building do not share these documents; everything needs to be handed in to each office respectively. Something like the digital age must be technology the German bureaucracy does not want to reach in the next 50 years at least. I mean in Finland when we notified one office of something all the other offices knew it immediately so we saved time and money.

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Nathan with her Mama

What is your opinion about raising your child as a third culture kid? 

This is not an easy question to answer as I have never thought too much about it. We try that he experience as much as possible from both of our cultures. With me that means I try to give him as much as I can offer about Finland with keeping the German part relatively low as he is anyways surrounded by it every single day. Nathan speaks with his mother only Chinese and she tries to teach him certain Chinese ways. I on the other hand speak mostly English with him and some Finnish besides trying to get him to love Moomins!

On Raising a Bilingual Kid

Being Bilingual is a privilege that not all kids nowadays have. Having this access for multiple language learning would be a great benefit for my son when He grows up. It is tough on adult learning a new language as my wife is also doing German Lessons but for kids, its easy for them to adapt to the culture that they are exposed with.I can’t wait what language would my son would be babbling soon!

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The Kung Fu baby during holidays in Finland

When thinking about which country might be better for raising a third culture kid I must say Finland was a much better place, at least Helsinki, to live as an interracial couple with a mixed child. There was much more diversity there than here in this little town and people seem to be more open minded in Finland.

How do you make an impact as an Expat -Papa in your country of residence?

I try my best to set an example to others in this little town what is all possible in this age and that interracial relationships are nothing strange or complicated and that a mixed child is just perfectly fine. As this town is not that big some people still have different views towards such relationships. This might sound strange when thinking it is the year 2016 and not the 1950’s any longer. I know that if I am a good father & example to Nathan ,then I am contributing to the world in raising a responsible future generation.

Thank you so much Timo! Vielen Dank and more power to you & your Crazy Chinese Family. It’s a pleasure being in your circle.

If you like to know more about Timo, you can follow  his adventures through his  Facebook Page & Twitter.

P.S. All photos are courtesy  & owned by  Timo and are his personal property . Should you wish to use it, please inform or mention him.

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Make sure to follow our Expat Mamas around the World series and read how our Expat Mama in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, and Thailand are doing a fair share of living as an Expat parents.

Make sure to hit the Follow button for more Expat stories on this Blog, and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, or Papa! , you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Just drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

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My Adventure on cycling with Toddler

My husband is Dutch and you would probably known why & how  Dutch are naturally born cyclists. I mean, they learn to cycle the moment they learned to walk and run. Believe me,there’s no kid in the Netherlands without a children’s bike! Maybe not everyone has a computer but really, statistically speaking, every single person has a Bike. A humble Dutch Bike.

There is no such a thing as cycling culture for Dutch, It is their #1 CULTURE! It’s no surprise that they are the  Cycling capital of the world  especially  Amsterdam. If you are a tourist, please,please think twice before you hop on to that bike. Amsterdam is one hell of a crazy hub for cyclists.They rule this city and you as a tourist is a liability in the road. Your selfie stick & bike is not just a perfect combo during rush hours. But if you wanna piss off the Dutch, go on. If you’ve visited the Netherlands, you know what I mean. For me,one thing that lingers in my memory about Amsterdam is Bikes. Millions of Bikes.

There is not a single space or place without a bicycle. There are more bicycles than residents in The Netherlands and in cities like Amsterdam and The Hague up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike. They don’t cycle for recreational purposes only–They cycle for life!

No wonder that the Dutch people are on top (3 km) in cycling kilometers per day while Germans cycle only for 800 meters average daily  compared to other European countries. The Dutch also have the least deaths (1.6) per 100 million kilometers. They don’t even wear helmets! You can check out these surprising statistics Here.

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A Family that cycle together, stays together.His, hers, and Mine.

So, being married to a Dutch, this is a major culture shock for me. The things is, I’ve never  heard about or seen  a Bakfiets before, so I was really ogling the moment I saw it. Not that I wanted to have one, but the idea of transporting another human (let alone babies & toddlers!)   with that box-type cargo thing attached on the bike looks so strange to me,so crazy,so genuine & yet very interesting.Knowing you can also put your bag of groceries and your pets, your plants etc. in there, then that made me smile.When you’re in Holland, you will cycle…because that’s how they roll.

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My new found Love-Affair with Toddler-Cycling.

Eventually, cycling is also part of our little family now. I learned to cycle when I was about 13 (or something I can’t really remember), but it was just for recreation, a time where you just want to experiment new things in your teenage life. After years & years, I have never ridden a bike.The next time I rode a bike was when I was in the Netherlands and cycle for about 25 km and my ass really hurts. It felt strange, but once again, exciting.My daughter who just turned 2 last August got her walking bike and I could see that it’s in her genes too, loving her bike for the love of it! When we moved here in Germany, I was also surprised that Cycling is also a great part of the German culture, almost similar to the Dutch. Here they have the Anhänger (or kid’s chariot) and the Kid seat (Kindersitz) attached to the bike when cycling with babies & kids.People cycle with their kids, to go to work,doing errands,even when it rains! Trust me, if you move to Germany, you will buy a bike!

My husband got me a bike as well. Hoorraayyy!  I am a trying-hard Expat Mama who wanted to integrate and fit in as much as possible so I was really thrilled when we got my new bike. Deep inside I was horrified,nervous and saying prayers. Can I really do it? Can I really ride my bike with my daughter on my back, with me? What if she fell? She sits and I cycle? I tell you, it’s no joke! It scared the hell out of me. But at the same time, challenged me.

I just got to do it, and go for it.

It’s not easy at first. But it felt good. It actually felt great. Toddler-Cycling is possible and very safe. I think it really creates a special bond between families. Responsible Cycling  as a family is one of the things I love here in Germany, and why not, it’s so much fun.

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Our bicycles- meet Helmut, Helga & my daughter’s bike-Heike

I have never realized that Cycling could be so much more than just cycling itself. When I saw how Dutch people and the Germans now go on with their life through life in two-wheels, I was really  impressed. Cycling is healthy, pollution-free, natural, and very environment-friendly form of exercise and means of transport. But more than all of these, It’s a great lifestyle. No wonder these countries have high quality of Living.

Who builds a bicycle road on a 32km-long sea dyke? One akin to a really, really long Severn Bridge, made of earthworks, tumbleweed and gulls, with a six-lane highway? Yup, only the Dutch ! To make cycling safer and more inviting the Dutch have built a vast network of cycle paths.These are clearly marked, have smooth surfaces, separate signs and lights for those on two wheels, and wide enough to allow side-by-side cycling and overtaking. As a first-timer & a tourist in the Netherlands, I find these things really delightful. Here in Germany, there are enough cycle paths for anyone to cycle until they drop. It’s a cycling paradise as well. I am so looking forward to explore so much more of this country through cycling. I am excited to cycle more with my daughter and indulge in this new lifestyle that we’re having. A lifestyle with our humble bicycles.

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Exploring Germany on a bike with a Toddler.

Germany & the Netherlands have  decent infrastructure for cyclists since there is a remarkable variety of people cycling, of all ages and from all walks of life. I saw old couples riding side by side on e-bikes on long bicycle roads between country towns. There are people in normal clothes riding in astonishing numbers in the cities at rush hour. There are parents with kids, sometimes one on the front, one on the back, even kids sitting on Bagagedrager  and holding nonchalantly on to the cycling adult’s shoulders. There are children cycling unaccompanied to and from school, and cycling and playing in the streets, even in busiest cities. Children who goes to Kindergarten (or Krippe) and Pre-schoolers are riding their Bikes. I saw ladies in skirts & heels cycling in style..so fashionable. I was really dumbfounded, why this can’t be done in the Philippines?! This could be a part of the solution of the worst traffic in Metro Manila. If only the government is willing to invest in the cycling infrastructure….If only they could also fall in love with Bikes &  have a steady love-affair with bicycles.

Do you like Cycling?

What  activities do you share as a family?

 

Have you enjoyed this post?  Make sure to hit the Follow button for more Expat stories on this Blog, and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks!