Berlin: The Final Chapter

It’s done.
All over.
The apartment was handed over today, and with that, Maike and I have finally closed one of the most turbulent chapters in our lives. I moved to Berlin in 2017 and spent the next five years trying to make sense of the world and my life. Maike joined me in 2020 right at the beginning of lockdown, and thus began our journey to hell and back. In some ways we were very much like Frodo and Sam, and the ring of power was composed of so many things that catapulted us into the darkness filled with our personal demons.

Mission accomplished.
There will be no fanfare, no tearful good-byes, just a quiet walking away.
Maike has done a tremendous job in her first ever full-scale relocation, dismantling a fully furnished apartment, and painstakingly sorting, disposing, and placing things in storage. Last night we took a final look around, thanks to the magic of FaceTime, and deemed it over and done with. This morning she officially handed over the apartment and walked away. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief and move forward. Everything is in place, she flies out early tomorrow morning and begins her new life in Fuerteventura.

Truth be told we are both a little dazed, after the gruelling and gruesome weeks behind us. She bore the brunt of the whole process, sticking faithfully to the workflow and timeline I designed for her. In the end, she finally understood what I went through the past 25 years. It wasn’t just a learning curve for her, but for me as well: letting go of the reins and watching her do things her way, at her own pace. We are incredibly grateful for the crew of friends who pitched in at all hours, all the people of TipTapp, and the painter who were part of the process. Most especially, we thank RS and SH who stood by us unconditionally. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

There are eight boxes on their way to me, containing my winter clothes and a few odds and ends, including some reserve cat foot for Cherry that we had accumulated ever since Lolita died. The stocks of wet food went to the neighbour downstairs who has three cats of her own, and was thrilled to receive them. The storage place is locked for the next year or so, and we will leave it as is until we figure out a more permanent and viable solution.

As I have been writing over the past months, this process has taught both of us to declutter and detach. For Maike it was an eye-opener, and for me it was the continuation of a downsizing that began in 2016. It was inconceivable back then to reduce my life to 12 cubic meters, when I moved from Bangkok to Manila, and even less when I moved to Berlin the following year. Then I jumped off the deep end and relocated to Portugal with just two suitcases. In an eerily similar manner, Maike followed a similar timeline and pattern, but her journey was Bangkok – Stuttgart – Berlin – Florence – Berlin. And when she gets on the plane tomorrow it will be with one suitcase.

We are more alike than people think, unafraid to start over and explore the world one cup of coffee at a time. Not only are the accumulated battle scars reminders of difficult lessons learned, but also of the strength and courage we wear with pride.

I leave you today with an image that I took this afternoon. We could call it Great Expectation, but to me it is an affirmation of finally being able to sit, look out the window, and Breathe.

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