02 September 2019

Seven Years in Berlin

Seven 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 7 years since I arrived.

It turns out however that after 7 years, I am slowly planting roots. Why is 7 years significant? 7 years after all is the longest stretch of time I have spent in a foreign country, until now. 7 years is the length of time I have spent in Buffalo, moving there in August 2005 and leaving in September 2012. This means that my stay in Berlin would be longer than that. I think that is significant.

(Speaking of other significant milestones, the upcoming ones to break are a) my 11 years of cumulative stay in the USA, composed of 2 years in Denver, 1 year in Honolulu, 1 year in Guam, and 7 years in Buffalo; and b) my 14 years of cumulative stay in the Philippines, during 1982-1985, 1987-1988, 1989-1995, and 2001-2005. If my stay in Berlin goes over this number, then that would definitely be amazing.)

Even though I've been here in Berlin for 7 years, this city still isn't feeling old to me. There's still places I keep on discovering. Old haunting places are closed, and now there are new things instead. I once was on the M29 bus line recently, which I used a lot when I was working as an academic and commuting back and forth from Mitte. Since I haven't been on that line, I noticed how the businesses and shops have changed on its route. And that's just two years since not being there on a regular basis.

I have applied for permanent residence. And while the process hasn't completed yet, they already gave me an appointment a few weeks from now. From the looks of it, my application would be successful. I am definitely looking forward to that. I look forward to the day when I am not a guest anymore, and instead an actual citizen, where I can actually influence directly what is happening to my surroundings. Once I get permanent residence, my next goal would be citizenship. But let me take it one step at a time.

7 years ago, I arrived in Berlin Tegel Airport with 2 suitcases and a backpack. I took a taxi to Pankow where I rented a room temporarily. I didn't realise I'd still be around this time. But that seems to be the case, und das ist auch gut so.


  1. I find it oddly comforting to know that you found your place, especially as a kid who lived in so many different places around the world, as a man who tried different countries and as a traveller who likes exploring cities :-)

    1. Zhu,

      I think things are always to some extent temporary. I might be aiming for permanent residence here, but that doesn't mean that things won't change anymore in the future!