09 September 2016

My Life as a Patchwork of Foreign Experiences

Back in July, I applied for a new residence permit here in Berlin. I still had a valid residence permit which I earned by virtue of having a job, but since I got married to an EU citizen, I applied for a new one. This new residence permit allows me to stay here in Germany by virtue of my relationship to an EU citizen (as opposed to my former residence permit, which allows me to stay by virtue of my employment), and is valid for 5 years. It also allows me to take any kind of work whatsoever (unlike my former residence permit, which restricts me from working in any sector with the exception of academia). This means that I can open my vegan pro-biotic soup cafe if I want to, and stay here in Berlin until 2021.

Anyway, I am not intending to talk about opening a vegan pro-biotic soup cafe at the moment. I'll talk about that later, but not now. What I want to talk about now is the feeling that my life seems to be a patchwork of foreign experiences. It's like I now have permission to stay in Germany for the next 5 years. After that we don't know yet.

I guess this has always been my life, and I always had the feeling that nothing is permanent. I always have a time limit in any given point in time. 2 years in Denver; 4 years in Honolulu, which turned into 1; 6 years in Osaka, which turned into 4 and a half; 1 and a half years in Guam; 4 years in Buffalo, which was extended for 3 more years; 1 and a half years in Berlin, which has been extended for 3 more years, and now has been extended again for 5 more years. I suppose not a lot of people live their lives this way.

I suppose for most people, if there would be phases, then there would be less phases than the ones I have. People immigrate, but once they move, they stay put for the most part. Or perhaps when they move around, they don't move around in a large geographical area like the moves I have made. Mostly, people just move from their small hometown to the nearby large city, like moving from Rostock to Berlin, Caen to Paris, or Lancaster to London. Nothing that involves a long-haul transcontinental flight.

So yeah, I feel like I am just being blown by the wind, here and there, picking up a few years here and a few years there. I am not complaining: I have to say that I actually like it. To be honest, I couldn't imagine staying put in one city for the rest of my life. So far, Buffalo has been the city in which I stayed in the longest stretch, with 7 years. I have lived in Manila for 14 years in total, but that is a cumulative measure, earned in between times we lived overseas. It's been 4 years now since I have moved to Berlin, and I have permission to stay here for another 5. Who knows, Berlin might be the city where I stay the longest, but we'll see.


  1. I'm both envious and sympathetic to the dilemma and your international experiences. On one hand, I really can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to explore the world, a country, any place, really. Yet, everybody needs to call a place home... and red tape isn't fun.

    1. Zhu,

      Red tape is indeed not fun, but somehow, it works nevertheless. I just take it slowly, as it comes, without planning for anything long-term.