What makes someone feel at home in a country not their own?  Besides identifying with the culture of a foreign country, it helps to have family and/or friends close by and to speak the language.  The Amsterdam Swarthouts were our first visitors this past weekend — my brother-in-law Todd, his wife Barbara and our 5 month old nephew Ilan. We spent the weekend catching up, visiting the Jewish Museum (a place I hope to return to soon), eating Ethiopian food, strolling through the Volkspark (perhaps a cousin of Peoples Park in Berkeley?), and playing with baby Ilan.  It was comforting and familiar to be with family while settling into our new lives. If only my sister and closest friends were here too!

Speaking and listening to German every day has also eased the transition for me. I hope to make huge strides with my German language ability during this year in Berlin.  I have researched a number of possible German courses to enroll in and this week I will go for a consultation with one school to facilitate placement in a course.  I am picking up from my undergraduate years at Berkeley when I was a double major in German and political science.  I never became fluent or found the right opportunity after college to advance my speaking ability, but here I am more than 20 years later picking up where I left off.  Life does not always give us a chance to return to the endeavors that we never completed.