Maria

Susanne

Back then

 

I have never been a great adventurer. I always wanted to achieve something, I wasn’t shy or anything, but I was never the one who would jump into high waves of the ocean. I was never the one who would take the biggest roller coaster or the one who went to Southeast Asia or Australia alone after graduation to experience adventure and find herself. I was never the one who wanted to take a real risk.

 

When I was little, we usually went to Italy once a year and maybe even to summer camp. Money was always tight, my mother was divorced and raised us alone and there was not enough for more. On the weekends we explored the countryside and made many trips. Often my mother would drive to Garmisch-Patenkirchen with me and my two sisters to go hiking and to visit my grandmother. When we would arrive at her house she would have prepared pancakes or homemade cookies and my sisters and I would built caves on the terrace or play in the backyard. We were happy, we hardly missed anything. Maybe we would have preferred to go by car rather than by train (we always came running to the train last minute), but we did not have one. Maybe we would have liked to have a holiday in a real hotel by the sea instead of a small cheaper apartment close to the street. Just like our friends and their families. It was always chaotic in our house, my mom always worried about money, but we were happy and she did everything to make it a beautiful home. When the summer holidays started and the others left for their big vacations, we would be allowed to repaint our rooms and choose the color. Then we would have strawberry cake on the balcony or a picnic in one of the countless beer gardens in Munich.

After graduation I moved to another city to go to university, many of my friends did the same. During the semester break, they traveled to Ecuador, Colombia, Thailand, and Vietnam. They spent semesters in Italy or Argentina and opened their accounts on Facebook to stay connected with all their international friends. My first boyfriend left to Cape Town for one semester. Just before he left, he ended our relationship. My second boyfriend just returned from a semester abroad in Colombia and an internship in New York when we met. When we sat with others in the years to come, traveling and living abroad was always a issue that would be discussed. I studied history and german literature, during the semester break I worked a lot to supplement my student loan and pay my rent. I had a good time with my friends at the lake, we did small trips in Europe. Whatever we could afford.

I went to Berlin for my masters. It was cold and gray and in the second semester, I decided that I would try it with a semester abroad myself. I visited a Spanish course at university, applied for an Erasmus semester in Spain and a student loan, lent some extra money, as the student loan was never enough and went to Salamanca for half a year. Finally I learned another language, finally, I had the foreign experience that everyone talked about. It was nice and interesting. I had many Spanish and Italian friends, four classes a week and the rest of the time was free to explore the city and Spain. But by the end of the semester, I was getting nervous - I had no money to do all the travels the others made. And after a few months in the small town, I wanted to get out again, stay in a bigger city, see more, develop myself further.

Half a year after my return I moved back to Munich, together with my boyfriend at this time. I started an internship, I finished my master's thesis and worked in cafés, in the House of Literature and as a hostess at fairs. I became a project assistant at the literature festival in Munich, later I got my first permanent job as project coordinator of the Brechtfestival. Finally, I was back in Munich - my hometown, which sometimes annoyed me, but which was beautiful with a great cultural offer, many friendsand my family.

I was proud of myself. I had worked all time while studying, but finally, I was able to earn my money with a job I really liked. I was respected, I had set up a professional network, I organized exciting projects and at the end of each month, I got my salary.

I just felt like I had arrived after a long journey. I was project coordinator for a few months, I lived for two years in a nice, small apartment in Munich and actually wanted to rest. But my relationship was not good, for a long time we had many discussions about disappointed expectations and different lifestyles.

I had fought for a very long time, I was exhausted - that's when I met Erick. 

 

Looking back, I wouldn’t say that Erick changed my life. He did not save me, he was just there. I was so tired and so open to new things and I fell in love. And maybe everything would finally get a little easier - but it didn’t. 

 

Love

 

It’s the time of the year where Oktoberfest takes place. I am standing alone in front of a beer tent, it is already late and I can’t get in. All my friends are celebrating inside, a long weekend is lying ahead of us and the whole festival is overcrowded. Erick is standing next to me with a friend, asking if I could help them to get in. I refuse. Then by chance - a waiter opens the door for a few seconds, we can enter, we buy a beer, we raise our glasses and drink together. It is probably the most Bavarian and at the same time most international way to get to know each other - at the biggest folk festival in the world. 

I was born in Munich. Erick and his friend are from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He tells me that he studied in Europe, that he has lived in Munich for ten years. We speak German. Then my girlfriends come outside and get me into the tent. Inside we meet again, he looks at me - I like him. He asks for my phone number, I tell him that I have a boyfriend, he looks disappointed, then he hands over his number - we can just go for a coffee, he says. The upcoming days, weeks and months everything will change. At this point, I don’t know that we will meet again this weekend at the Oktoberfest, that we will kiss each other, that I will end my relationship my heartbroken because I realize that I can’t do it anymore. I will be moving to a friend, I will find my own apartment, I will pick up my boxes and furniture at the shared apartment, feeling guilty and sad. I'll meet Erick again a few weeks later and over, and over again. In the beginning, I'll think that's nothing, just a little fun, and yet I notice how secure I feel with him. I will tell my friends that they shouldn’t worry - we won’t get married. I will learn that he has a broken heart and that he does not want to get involved with me completely. I, also tired from the long struggles of the past relationship, want to end it at some point. We both can’t. 

 

We have nothing in common, he is from Rio de Janeiro, an engineer and a manager in a large company, I am from Munich and a literature woman. But it feels right between us and a few months after we get to know each other, we are finally becoming a couple. We are still very careful with each other, he needs time for many things that seem normal to me, meeting parents, meeting friends. Each of us has made their own experiences in the past, both of us experienced disappointments, developed ways to deal with it. We spend more and more time together and we plan our first vacation. It's nice to be with him and I'm doing good in our relationship, at work and in my home. We are officially together for about three months when a call comes in on a Friday night.

 

The Change Part 1

 

After Erick calls me I am coming to his place. He looks at me sadly. He just got a call from his boss, he says. The German part of his company will be sold. The headquarters of the company is located in Miami. They offer him a position over there - it's a great opportunity, the one he's always been waiting for. I'm shocked, but I've learned in recent years and months that you can not influence life. I try to stay calm, but the tears are running down my face. It's Friday - he has to make a decision by Monday. He asks me if I can imagine a long-distance relationship to Miami. I say no. I know living there is his dream. I tell him that I would understand and respect his decision, no matter how it will turn out, but that if he would decide to leave, it would probably be the end of our relationship. The next day I am with my mother, I cry a lot - finally I was happy, finally we were together and now happens this. My mom is worried.

Erick said he will think about it during the weekend, but I know how he will decide and I understand. We just know each other for a few months, he worked hard for years to achieve something like this. I know, I don’t want to have a long-distance relationship - I want to be with someone. My salary is not very good, my position with a lot of responsibility is not suitable for holidays in the time before the festival that I work for. I don’t think a minute about coming with him. I talk to my mother, to some friends, then Erick and I spend the whole weekend together. I don’t care about caution or the fear of a disappointment anymore. We hold each other in our arms - with this message we realize that we do not want to be without each other. Erick reminds me of my dream, which I have often told him - that I want to live somewhere, wherever the sun is always shining. I hate the long winters in Germany. He says, now I would have the chance. I smile sadly. On Sunday evening I meet a friend. Why don’t you go with him, she asks me. I laugh. What am I supposed to do in Miami? I have a great job here, in eight months the next festival will take place and I will sign my contract in two weeks. I have no savings and my career doesn’t seem suitable for the US. There are possibilities, says my girlfriend. I should think about it. I'm afraid to think about it - and that he doesn’t want me to come. By the start of the week, I ask Erick how he would feel if I’d come with him - not now, I want to finish my second festival, but maybe a little later. He smiles and says it would be wonderful. It is mid-June. We do not know exactly when he has to leave, how much time we have left. We travel together to Portugal, we enjoy our time, I sign my annual contract, from time to time we talk about the future, but everything is very vague. At the same time, Erick enrolls for an MBA, and the university also has a campus in Miami. Shortly later it’s a fact. He will be going to Miami in early September to begin his new job and do his MBA on the weekends. After he receives the visa he is ready to go. I'm having a hard time seeing him selling his furniture, his car and announcing his lease. He stated me as his fiancé in his visa. It used to help you get a co-visa, but now it doesn’t work anymore. We agree that I will visit him in Miami, that he will come to Munich on Christmas and that we will see how it works out until then. At Christmas, we want to decide if I really will be going to Miami. I'm afraid of the time that is coming - I don’t know what's going to happen - but I know, I have to try it. We organize a farewell party for him, his parents and I help him to pack all the boxes and suitcases. He sells or donates most things - I give him a self-made photo album - then he is gone.

 

The work distracts me, but my work colleagues know nothing of my private situation. Erick and I talk every day, but it's difficult with the six-hour time difference. When I wake up, he's already in the office, when it's night for him, I'm still at work. Real conversations are only possible on weekends. He works a lot, he studies at the weekend. When he is looking for an apartment, he sends me a video every time and asks which one I like best. It is still two months until my flight to Miami, but tickets are cheap and so I offer my apartment for rent on Airbnb and fly to Miami for five days. We are very happy to be with each other, but our reunion is weird. It has been only four weeks, but suddenly Erick lives in a strange city, a strange apartment and has a life that has nothing to do with me anymore. Although we talk on the phone, deep conversations are rare. I realize how he doesn’t like to speak in German anymore, how it’s exhausting for him. When I arrive in Miami, we are both insecure, I feel weird. Erick can’t take a day off, so I spend the first few days alone in Miami. The city seems strange to me, it is expensive and everything seems to be unreal, the beach, the cars, the bars. People in rollerblades and with silicone breasts are riding along the beach. One day, when are on Ocean Drive, surrounded by tourists drinking cocktails from buckets, I start to cry. I know that I do not belong here, I don’t know what to do here. 

I help Erick to move into a new apartment, we are going to Ikea - the only place where I feel a little bit like home. On Monday morning, after four and a half days in Miami, my plane returns to Munich. On Tuesday, I'm back at work with a huge jetlag.

All plans are running through my head. What options do I have, what can I do there? I research on Facebook for people I could know in Miami. A friend's British friend introduces me to a couple in Miami.When I fly back to Miami six weeks later, they invite me for lunch. I am getting to know another side of Miami, Erick and I are going to Key West for a few days - an island chain just before Cuba. I like the wooden houses that remind me of Pippi Langstrumpf and the chickens on the street. We are happy to be together and to be able to spend time together. It is beautiful and feels right. I'm beginning to get used to this idea.

When I return Christmas is almost there.  Already in Miami, we decided that we will make our plans come true. Erick is visiting for the holidays. The two weeks together pass quickly. Then the hardest time begins. We will not see each other for another three months. In early January Erick flies back to Miami, I book my flight for early April. I still haven’t quit my job yet and I don’t have a visa.

We have been talking about the visa but we don’t have a real solution. First, I will come with a tourist visa. I will not be able to work with it. I will rent my apartment for half a year, I will put my clothes in the basement. If it doesn’t work out, I can go back - I would be without a job, but I have to take the risk. I participate in the green card lottery. A company called American Dream helps me with the application. The people they advertise on the website proudly hold a green card in their hands. I think that's stupid. I don’t want one. I do not have the dream to live in America. And yet I have to consider all possibilities to make it work.

 

Of course, I don’t win the lottery. I arrange a consultation with the same company to discuss the different options for visas. Erick suggests I should start finding a sponsor for my visa. I'm talking to an employee, I'm telling her about my situation, in fact, I tend to assume that I'm the exception at this point. The adviser has a clear message: The opportunity to find a sponsor or to apply for a work visa in the usual way is lower than five percent. She explains the costs and the timeframe for applying for a work visa. The only option in our case is to get married. She tells me about couples who never wanted to get married, but do so in the end, because there is no other way. I am surprised. Erick and I have already talked about it vaguely. I feel that it makes him uncomfortable. I'm not totally surprised, but I am 28 and in no hurry - and most of all I think this is rather unromantic. After the conversation, I call Erick in Miami. I tell him that the woman said we should get married. I feel totally stupid. On the other side of the line, it is quiet. First, you come and then we'll see, says Erick. I do not say anything, but notice how I get angry with him. How can he get me into this situation? My dream is not to live in the USA, I'm not in a hurry to marry and suddenly I have to organize everything, sign up for the lottery and give advice and finally give him the information that we should get married. I hang up the phone. Later I will tell him that I don’t want to talk about it during the next couple of months.

Shortly thereafter, I have my appointment at the American Embassy for my tourist visa. I am nervous. I have prepared all the questions that I could be asked, it should not look like I would want to work in the US. I should also say that I am engaged.I have to go through security and then constantly to the toilet. It will not be hard for me to persuade him that I don’t want to work in the US. To say that I am engaged will be more difficult. But then everything is short and painless. After a week, I have my visa. I quit my job. The festival is in late February, I work hard and sleep badly. After the festival, I have a lot of overtime and vacation left over. End of March is my last working day. I have one week to prepare my apartment for the new tenant and to pack my bags. I'm throwing a little farewell party for my friends.

On April 5, 2016, I board the plane for the third time to fly from Munich via Dusseldorf to Miami. This time I will stay.

 

Miami

 

When I arrive, Erick picks me up at the airport. He arrived from a business trip half an hour ago and is tired. I flew twelve hours and spent an hour at the border checkpoint. We did not see each other for three months. It's weird and nice to be finally together again. Erick was very worried in advance. Whether I feel well or very alone. He works a lot, he didn’t get home earlier than ten or eleven in the last few months. We live in a one-bedroom apartment. We have only one car and Erick needs it to get to work. Will we be able to get along in a city where public transport is very limited? HAlso, how will it feel to be no longer completely independent? Fortunately, I got a job as a Freelancer for a big German newspaper. I'm a social media manager for a monthly magazine and work about two hours a day and will have some own money. Apparently, that's not enough for life. I have always done everything alone. Now I need the help of a man, the last thing I want to do is to be one of this Miami luxury women. But not a housewife either. We will see.

 

We worried for no reason. Erick tries hard and tries to get home early. I start working and exploring Miami and sign up for a language course after three weeks. Now I have a routine. Every morning I leave the house at half-past eight and stay at the language school until noon. I am lucky. I get to know a couple of nice women. Many have the same or similar situation as me, everyone is new to Miami, some just passing through, but a small crowd will stay. Everyone is married except me. Some have married an American, others have come with their husbands for professional reasons. There's a lot to talk about. It is fun. In the afternoon I work, at night Erick and I spend time together. We meet first friends and finally enjoy being together. We are happy. I have less trouble getting used to the life here than I thought, living with Erick works well. Sometimes  I am annoyed by the horrible malls. I hate it that we are always watched in our building and that we can't bring furniture into our apartment at the weekend. I miss the cafes on the street. I miss bread and cakes and cheap, good food. Sometimes I miss my family and friends, but soon a visit of a friend has been planned. Three months have passed since my friend is back on the plane after ten days in Miami and a short trip to New York. My budget for my language course has been used up. I leave the language school. In recent months, Erick and I have avoided the topic of marriage. I feel uncomfortable addressing it, but it is obvious that we have to talk about it. A long weekend is coming up and Erick and I have booked a short trip to one of the nearby islands. I tell him that we have to talk about it this weekend. In three months my flight will return. I still have a lease with notice in Germany, all my stuff is there. We have no plan. I'm getting nervous.

After arriving we spend a nice evening without talking about it. But we both know that it is time. The next evening we both go out for dinner. We talk about what it would be like if we got married. There are many topics to discuss. We know that we are different and have grown up differently. Erick is happy to be in the USA. He was tired of working in Germany, the hierarchical culture, the difficult opportunities for a promotion, he, who as a foreigner had the feeling to stop growing at some point.

He loves his job, he works more now than he used to. Only in Miami, I realize that as a Brazilian, American culture is much closer to him than to me. Miami is a dream destination for him. Working more than living does not seem to bother him. Even though I got along well the last three months, I know: I think pretty much everything in Germany is better besides the weather. Education, health insurance, nutrition, public transport, environmental awareness, my job prospects - all this scares me here. I’m ok for now, but I don’t want to live here in the future. I grew up in a family without much money, luxury and consumption mean little to me, but I want to have cultural attractions around me, interesting opportunities and not live in a plastic world.

Can we marry with these differences, maybe start a family? We know that it will not be easy. But we love each other - that's for sure.

We walk along the beach, then suddenly he pulls out a ring and holds my hand. I am surprised, I didn’t expect that and of course, I am incredibly happy. I accept.

 

The Weddings

 

Now everything has to go very fast. We decide to get married in a civil wedding in Miami and in a church in Germany. We got three months until my flight goes back. Now my second job is to organize my own wedding. My professional experience benefits me and somehow we manage to organize a church in Germany, to get the permission to get married in the church and to find two pastors who will marry us. We invite our families and friends, I fly to Germany for a week to arrange the details. I am excited and sometimes overwhelmed. Everything is far away, my home, my family, my friends. Sometimes I feel like I am in a bad Hollywood movie. Erick works a lot and has to return to the university again and again on weekends. Enjoying Miami, exploring the city and building a home is suddenly not so important anymore.

On the day of our civil wedding, Erick works from home. I go to buy a small bouquet of flowers. I'm wearing a summer dress, Erick a shirt and black pants. We drive to the city hall in Miami Beach. We got our Marriage License a week before, showed our passports and paid the fee. Now we sit here without an appointment, draw a number and wait for the next seat at the counter. The TV above us shows the television program Divorce Court. It's about scams, money and everyone is screaming and crying. When it’s our turn, everything goes very fast. We are led to a small side room with plastic flowers and tulle curtain, the lady from the office takes pictures and in three minutes we are married. We drink a glass of champagne on Ocean Drive. Exactly one year ago I was sitting here crying. Now I am married. It is three weeks until my flight to Germany. The next morning Erick goes back to work, I'm alone with the organization and all my feelings. Suddenly I start to doubt, I cry a lot and wonder if all this is right. After a few days, Erick begins to worry. I'm completely beside the track and talk a lot with my sister. It was too much, too fast, how could my life change in a year? I miss my mother, my sisters, my close friends who have known me for so long. People expect certain feelings in certain life situations. But what if they do not enter or trick us?

I'm flying to Germany a week before Erick. He can only take two weeks off. I cry the whole flight. My Eastern European neighbor remains unaffected. When I fall into my mother's arms, I feel better.

 

It's nice to be home. To have the support of the family. At my bachelorette party, it's time for Oktoberfest. In the center of my home, surrounded by my friends, all doubts have disappeared. The next day I take Erick at the airport into my arms.

 

Our wedding will be remembered as an unforgettable day. The closest family and friends from around the world have come to celebrate with us. It is October, cold and when I drive to the church with my maid of honor it is raining. We have turned the small Bavarian community on its head, there is a Bavarian and a Brazilian pastor, the service is bilingual. A friend sings with her gospel choir and everyone claps their hands. The day goes by, we celebrate by the lake, there are speeches, games, candles on the lake and we dance until dawn. Two days later we drive to Tuscany for three days. Then back to Munich and Erick flies back to Miami.

 

I stay alone in Munich, change my name, have to change my passports and apply for a new visa, give up my subleased apartment and move out. My sister is expecting a baby, I hope it will be born while I'm still here. The upcoming weeks are nice and exhausting at the same time. Nice, because I have my family around me, exhausting because I feel between the chairs. My own life is now in Miami, but at the same time, I still have to build it there. The last half year was exciting, interesting, full of surprises. I know after my return, everyday life begins, I want to find a job, I do not know when I will come back again. 

Erick works a lot and I feel left alone, while definitely packing up my life in Munich. I helped Erick when he left but I am on my own now. Three days before my flight to Miami, my little niece is born. My little sister, my mother and I visit the new family at home, we are all lying together in the big bed and are grateful to be together.

 

Miami Part 2

 

Back in Miami, I feel good, I have a visa and I can finally start and plan my future. It's so nice to be back with Erick after six weeks. We're married now, it feels a little different, more mature, more beautiful. I'm starting to deal with the bureaucracy of America. Social Security, work visa, driving license test. I’m running from one office to the next. The driving license office is located in an extinct mall near the airport. As a German, I only have to do the theory test. I practiced online. Turn right at red, first come first serve at intersections, the rules are unusual for a German. I'm starting to check out the Miami job market. As expected, the literary scene doesn’t look good. I am applying for a position as a theater manager during the Miami Film Festival and they offer me the position. My first success - I am excited. For Christmas, Erick and I are flying to Brazil for the first time together. It's something special for me to see the country where he grew up. Rio de Janeiro is huge, beautiful, dangerous. The family accepts me with open arms and arranges a special wedding party for us. The third in a row. The two weeks go by quickly. With the first job in my pocket, I can celebrate the New Year well. As the fireworks rise above Rio there is a new, exciting year ahead of us, full of difficulties, discussions, love, ups and downs.

When we return to Miami, I'm waiting for my work visa. Trump is being inaugurated as the new president of the United States. The immigration authorities seem to stand still and I have been waiting for my permission for two and a half months - without it, I will not be able to work at the festival. Two days before the start of the festival, the letter finally arrives. The ten days of the festival pass quickly. The work is fun but also confronts me with my insecurities and American habits that I am not used to. When I discuss gun politics at the Farewell Barbecue at a table full of Chicken and Nachos and I represent a total different opinion, I miss Europe painfully. But I get three wonderful friends, that will stay.

 

The following months I apply every day, mostly I do not hear anything back, in some interviews I get into the final round. Finally, nothing works. At the same time, I'm starting to work as a German teacher in a language school. I started a further education online to become a German teacher. I'm looking for the meaning in my life, trying to make plans for the future, I am nervous, I do not know where the journey is going.

Erick and I do not have much time together. We enjoy the few days off, but we have discussions often. I miss a perspective, getting rejected bothers me. Erick is at the university on many weekends, he builds his life and grows, I see how he likes it - I feel the imbalance. While pursuing his life successfully, freshly married and dreaming of a family, I am lost between applications, missing prospects and the pressure of expectation that I impose on myself. Discussions about future, place of residence, role allocation and family test our young marriage again and again. Can it work for someone to give up her or his life for someone else? Although I know that I have made my decision, I question the consequences that come with it.

 

In the middle of the year, Erick finishes his master. Finally, it gets more relaxed. I am flying to Germany, two of my closest friends are getting married. The parties are loud and wild and for most guests, my life sounds exotic. The everyday life usually looks different and is sometimes not so easy to grasp. In the summer Erick and I go on vacation - to Iceland, where the summers are cold and there are more sheep than humans. Shortly before, I applied for a position, then suddenly I have a numerous Skype interviews with Miami between forests and Fijords. When I get back, I have a job as Art Production Manager in a Start-Up. I'm happy and excited. Finally, I can show what I can, all the energy flows into the new job, I enjoy it, I observe, learn, contribute my ideas, I get recognition. Suddenly I am myself again, more confident, I have my own life and don't sit at home anymore. I communicate, I am expected, I am part of creating something beautiful. I'm proud of myself and so is Erick. We both work a lot, but we are fine. The phone calls with Germany, my family, my friends are getting less, the time difference and the quantity of work makes it difficult. Erick and I do little trips on the weekends, we talk about the future, about family.

 

The Change Part 2

 

When I've been working for three months, Erick's coming home. He says we might have to move to Switzerland - soon. Often we have talked about it, I have often dreamed of getting back to Europe as quickly as possible, working with literature again, being where everything seems easier. But now I am bummed. Another three months later we pack the suitcases. I quit four weeks before leaving to organize the move. Erick doesn’t have one day off. It's a farewell with mixed feelings - bittersweet because Miami has become our home, we've made friends and got used to our life here. I'm looking forward to Switzerland, I hope it will be easier for me. I know I will be closer to my family. But we have to start all over again and start a new life - for how long this time?

 

When I hand over the key of our apartment to the broker, I feel sad and relieved at the same time. We had a farewell party with all our friends, there have been a lot of tears. The last two days we spend in Miami Beach. The sun is burning and the water is shimmering. We were far too little here, I think. Erick's American colleague drives us and the seventeen suitcases with his huge pick-up to the airport. Twelve hours later we land in Zurich. It's snowing.

 

 

*Since February the author and her husband are living in Switzerland. You can find more details on About.

 

 

 

© 2017 by Womenwholove.

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