Moving house in a very different world

Since my last longer post at the end of February, not a lot of time has passed and yet, I am writing these lines in a world that looks and feels very different from the one I lived in while we were packing boxes for our move. It’s hard to grasp how much has changed since March 2, when we had our farewell do with friends and colleagues in Switzerland. Much of public life has been coming to a grinding halt, people are keeping a safe distance to limit the spread of the virus. We have been thrown off kilter a bit as this hit us in the middle of our move, as you can imagine.

Showing Phoebe the empty space where our dining room used to be – I thought that might be a good idea so that she doesn’t try and run back to the old home: “There is nothing to return to.”

Our original plan did not work: We had to leave Switzerland three days earlier because we learned that the borders between Germany and many of its neighbours shall be closed. That came as a shock. We were staying at an Airbnb rental when we heard the news, drinking coffee after a hearty meal, We thought we were in for a lazy Sunday afternoon, maybe taking a walk. When we had heard that the borders will be closing, we gathered our bearings and packed our things into the car in quite a rush to make it out of Switzerland before travel got severely limited by the authorities on Monday morning. It was not easy. Phoebe again did not react to the sedative the way she should, bless her. After some two hours, we had a manic animal with us that lashed out at anything she could get her paws on through the cage at times. She was unpredictable in her behaviour to say the least, clearly not her usual self. Poor Phoebe!

Leaving Switzerland earlier than planned. Here, the cat seems to be sleeping peacefully. That changed a lot further into the journey.

We made it through to my home region of Bingen and arrived late at night on Sunday. We had luckily managed to book a hotel room already while driving. The hotel allowed us to stay although they normally are a pet-free place. Phoebe slept in the wardrobe, she was so exhausted. For us, it all felt slightly surreal. As the health minister of Germany recommended last week already for people who return from Italy, Austria and Switzerland to self-isolate for 14 days, my mother kindly offered us her apartment which is where Klaus and I are staying at the moment while mum has moved in with my elderly grandpa and Phoebe is staying with them which she really seems to enjoy.

A short video (5 minutes) in German with some thoughts and reflections, recorded in the vineyards on a morning walk.

So, we found a good solution despite the struggle and the insecurities. The circumstances and the precautionary measures are changing and evolving so fast that it’s difficult to keep pace logistically but also from an emotional and psychological standpoint. If you think of it, we’re practically homeless right now and live between the old – our apartment in Switzerland which is empty and handed over – and the new – our house in northern Germany that is being renovated right now and not ready to be lived in yet.

On Sunday, we want to continue our journey and drive up to the region of our new home. Only last night we learned that the federal state of Schleswig Holstein, where our new home is, will not be letting tourists in for the time being. So driving up north with our Swiss number plates and heading for a holiday rental, we think we will get stopped and checked out by local police fairly certainly. This feels unsettling. Hence, we urgently need some kind of proof that we’re not tourists but have another reason for going there. After a couple of phone calls and emails with the local administrations in Switzerland and northern Germany we should be all set.

Going for a walk with Phoebe on the “Rochusberg” in Bingen. This is the place where Klaus and I got married a bit more than 11 years ago. Would someone have told us on that day that we’d be walking here with a cat while a pandemic is raging – I would never have believed that.

Apart from getting organized in these volatile times, we’re trying (like so many others), to make the best of the current situation. We go for walks in between (in Germany that’s still possible as I am writing this but I’m very aware that circumstances migt change soon). As I am not working a the moment, I was saying last night to Klaus that in a weird way this feels a bit like Christmas: We don’t go out, we don’t have appointments, we eat a lot, we stay indoors most of the time. This all has a very “private” feel to it. We’re thrown back to the essentials. We can make choices, though, on how to deal with the confinement. Can we see the gift in this challenge?

What if this whole crisis that we’re in right now (and by “we” I mean all of us), would be a message? An opportunity to bring out the best in us? A learning experience, a catalyst for bringing about a change that has long been needed? What got humankind to this place will not get us further, that much is certain. We cannot continue to exploit the planet and our fellow humans selfishly. We might be on the dawn of a new era – what an encouraging thought!

Wherever this finds you and however you’re feeling, let me send you a virtual hug. I believe we can do this – we can all come out of this crisis stronger and wiser than before if we want to.

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