Five years ago, on the 2nd of September 2012, I arrived in Berlin. At that time, I didn't know I would be staying. I suppose as an academic, I was used to, and also expecting, to be moving around, after a couple of years or so, and Berlin at that point was just another one extended stopover. In any case, I remember being wide-eyed at my surroundings, excited at the new things that would come. Looking back to that time, I find that the memories I have of my 9th move are still fresh, even though it's been 5 years since I arrived.
See, I moved because I got a job. I was taking a new position as a research scientist in a research institute. Fresh from graduating from graduate school, I was taking my first job. As I was telling my friends back then, I was getting a lifestyle upgrade.
So I flew from Buffalo, NY on the 1st of September, and I do remember that there was uncertainty as to whether I would be flying or not. Lufthansa was conducting some strikes, and it was more or less a lottery to see whether my flight would actually take off or not. I was flying from Buffalo to Boston on JetBlue Airways, connecting on Lufthansa to Munich, followed by another short-haul flight to Berlin. Thankfully, they were not on strike during the day I flew, but the day after was another chaotic day at the airport.
I already arranged to have some temporary accommodation, in Pankow, northeast of the city. I stayed in that flat for a week. Thankfully I found my own flat relatively quickly, so I didn't have much housing problems. I had some luggage with me, perhaps too many for public transportation. I remember planning how to get to Pankow by public transport, and getting amazed at the fact that there are plenty of connections possible, but since I had quite a bit of luggage, I just opted to take a taxi to make my life simpler.
I still remember the view from my apartment window, watching the airplanes land in Tegel Airport. Pankow is quite aligned with the runways, and so planes would start to make noise from 6 AM, when the airport curfew was lifted.
On my second day, I remember that I already had a good grip of the city's layout, and I also found out where my workplace was. I also already had appointments with my new boss, as well as a few appointments to see flats. I dealt with a lot of bureaucracy during my first week.
At that time, I really didn't know how long I'd be staying in Berlin. But as time passed, things changed. Berlin started becoming like home. As much as I loved traveling, every time I would be in a plane and landing either in Tegel or Schoenefeld Airport, I would get this happy feeling inside me since I was coming home.
I spent 7 years in Buffalo, but quite frankly, I didn't get that feeling. I always knew that I was transient and temporary. I suppose I didn't really plant all the roots I could plant while I was in Buffalo. Heck, I didn't even date.
Berlin was different. It was sort of open-ended, and so roots started to be planted. And I must say, even if there were ups and downs, the last 5 years have been a lot of fun!
Within 5 years, I doubled the number of countries I have visited. I finally worked, both in and out of academia. I even got married, and gained a new family. That last part was definitely fun.
So yeah, Berlin is becoming more and more like home. I am definitely looking forward to the next 5 years. We'll see how that goes.