Books | So Far in 2017

Books | So Far in 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Via Goodreads

It’s that time of year again…time to talk about the books I’ve read so far in 2017. They are definitely fewer in number than this time last year, but maybe there are a few you might want to add to your own to-read list?

While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal, by Elizabeth Enslin (***). I added this memoir to my to-read list after my trip to Nepal in November because I had seen other hikers reading it, and it was recommended by a friend living in Nepal. Enslin details life in her Nepali husband’s remote village in the 1980s, particularly focusing on her pregnancy and the difficult birth of her son. Her descriptions felt very vivid to me and I really appreciated her reflections on daily life. Still, the book didn’t always completely convince me, which is why I gave it three stars. That said, it only took me two weeks to tear through it!

March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, drawings by Nate Powell (*****). You may remember a certain president insulting a certain civil rights leader earlier this year. This inspired me to pick up the first graphic novel (in a series) based on John Lewis’ memoir (which I also read this year, see below). This first book focused on his youth in rural Alabama on up to his days participating in sit ins at lunch counters and protest marches. I don’t think I’ve picked up a graphic novel since reading Persepolis about a decade ago, but it was definitely a refreshing change!

Arrival by Ted Chiang (***). I have to admit that I didn’t read this entire collection of short stories, but rather just “The Story of Your Life”, which served as the basis for the film Arrival (which I loved). I was hoping to gain a little more insight into the questions that still remained for me from the film, but it didn’t really work out that way. The story is still wonderful, but is told in a slightly different way that wouldn’t translate to film very well. Personally, I was moved much more by the film than the short story, but if you were a fan of the movie, I would still give it a shot.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (*****). I was expecting a bit of a repeat of All the Light We Cannot See with this book — which wouldn’t have been a bad thing — but Hannah’s novel definitely came into its own. It’s a story of two sisters involved in their own ways in the French Resistance during World War II, set both in Paris and the French countryside. An absolutely incredible tale of what it means to survive and what it means to resist. While many novels set in this time period end once the war has ended, this book dares to tell the tale of the aftermath for families, relationships, friends, neighbors — and how everyone had to live with the difficult choices they had made. Very moving!

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis and Michael D’Orso (****). Lewis’ memoir offers the most solid background and commentary on the civil rights movement that I’ve ever read. If you want to get beyond the sound bytes that we’re taught in school or hear about on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, then this book offers a real behind-the-scenes look, with all the detail and complexity that such a historic and complicated period of American history deserves.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (****). I really enjoyed Lean In, so when I heard the Sheryl Sandberg had written another book — this time about coping with the grief of the sudden loss of her husband — I was all over it. The book is very thoughtfully written. If you’re in the midst of grief, or are trying to support friends or family who are, this is a great resource.

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (*****). Without a doubt, if you only read one book this year, make it this one. Technically, it is a collection of short stories, but each story is so finely intertwined with all of the rest the collection, that it almost reads like a novel. Starting with a Soviet censor in 1930’s Leningrad, you see with each progressing story how his decisions rippled across time — from the gulags, to a modern day mining town in Siberia, to war torn Chechnya. For as horrible and as harsh as this period of time and these locations are, Marra’s stories are absolutely beautiful. (Also, don’t miss his debut novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.)

So that’s it so far! I’m currently about half-way through The Idiot by Elif Batuman, which I’m kind of loving for its very familiar (to me) portrayal of a girl’s first year at college in the mid-1990s. Also on my to-read list for the rest of the year are: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders, and The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein.

What have you been reading lately? Is there anything I should add to my list?

Berlin Marathon | Training Week 7

Berlin Marathon: Training Week 7 | No Apathy Allowed

So who knew that 7 weeks of Berlin Marathon training could sneak by so fast? Granted, I still have 11 weeks to go before the race on September 24th, so it isn’t exactly right around the corner — but things are getting real. My runs during the week are starting to surpass my “long” runs from early on in the training cycle, and I’m officially past half-marathon distance on the weekends now (which is a mental hurdle for me).

I have to admit, I haven’t been entirely satisfied with my training so far. Travel plus a lot of work and excuses made it easy for me not to get all my workouts in. But July is going to be my month, I know it! And this past week’s training went super well. I’m still not going as fast as I want to, but I still think I can get there…

Monday: Swimming, 30 minutes. It has been absolute ages since the last time I went swimming, and even though it’s not my favorite activity ever, it works wonders for active recovery and increasing my fitness. Swimming still causes a teeny tiny bit of anxiety, so I keep it relaxed and don’t put too much pressure on myself in terms of speed or distance. It’s all about just showing up and getting it done.

Tuesday: Hill training, 5 x hill.  Ok, Bremen really has no hills to speak of, so this was kind of an experiment to see if the inclines along the river would do the trick. While it got my heart rate up for very short periods of time, the overall fitness impact (according to my Garmin heart monitor) was next to zero. Guess I’ll go back to good ole’ interval training.

Wednesday: 4-mile easy run. Very relaxed evening run along Osterdeich and in the direction of the Weserwehr, plus 15 minutes of strength training.

Thursday: 7-mile pace run. I’m lucky enough to have found a running partner to help increase the pace a bit and make the miles speed by (literally and figuratively)! A round through Bürgerpark and the Stadtwald.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 14-mile long run. To mix things up, for this run I tested out a new (to me) route. I ran up along the Bürgerpark and through the university campus to Blockland, which is a marsh area filled with running and biking paths. I don’t know why I’ve never tried running there! A friend and her husband showed me a 5-mile loop that they like, and these were my speediest miles of the run! On my way back, I discovered a shady bike path so that I didn’t have to run along the main street near the university again, and then I finished up by running down the other side of the park. Glad to have gotten the miles in without having to run multiple loops of the park.

So that’s that. I can’t promise that I’ll update here every week with my Berlin Marathon training, but I will try to share some highlights through the summer. Are you training for anything right now? 

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Last summer, I had an amazing time participating in Bremen’s first organized Instawalk — and it was so successful that several more have been organizing since then! Last month, I was thrilled to join the group for a behind the scenes look at Theater Bremen. I have to admit that in all my years in Bremen, I have never seen any of the productions put on by the theater, but after seeing all the hard work and artistry that goes into a show, it’s definitely on my list of things to do.

We saw where they store the sets, walked through the carpentry and painting workshops, marveled at the texture and colors of the costume department, visited the rehearsal stages, and went backstage while they were setting up for a production. It really was an Instagrammer’s dream! So how about I stop rambling and show some photos already? If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll recognize most of these, but I’ve also included a couple outtakes just for fun…

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

We rounded out the tour with a drink at Noon, one of my favorite Bremer coffee shops, in the theater’s Kleines Haus. It was a perfect mix of being able to chat with familiar faces and get to know “new to me” Bremer Instagrammers.  For more on the Instawalk, check out this link. And many thanks to the City of Bremen’s social media channels for organizing the walk!

Bremen | jazzahead! 2017 clubnight

* Many thanks to Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen / for the complimentary tickets!  The opinions shared here are solely my own. *

Did you know that one of the largest jazz festivals and trade shows in the world — jazzahead! — happens every year in Bremen? Admittedly, I definitely did not — but now after attending the jazzahead! 2017 clubnight, I’m already marking my calendar for next year! The clubnight features jazz performances across the city in over 40 venues late into the night.  Sorting through the sheer number of shows was a bit overwhelming — so my friend and I came up with a couple criteria, like new (to us) venues and innovative styles of jazz. Here is what our night looked like:

Kulturzentrum KOKOON – Noahs Boat – 7:30pm

jazzahead! 2017 clubnight_Noahs Boat_(c)_frei
Noahs Boat | Photo made available by jazzahead! 2017

We started off in the Neustadt in the very relaxed atmosphere of Kokoon. With drinks and snacks in hand, we settled down into comfy armchairs to enjoy the music of Noahs Boat. Purely instrumental, the music combined the best of both analog and electronic sounds in a way that I really enjoyed. I would definitely go see Noahs Boat perform again, and since they’re from Berlin, that shouldn’t be too hard!


Kulturkirche St. Stephani – Continuum – 9:00pm


From Kokoon, we had about half and hour to make our way to the St. Stephani church to hear a jazz reinterpretation of songs by Martin Luther, just in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming up later this year. A very fitting location for such a show, the trio Continuum has adapted their music and style to fit the acoustics of the large cathedrals of Germany. Although the music itself wasn’t really my thing, I liked the idea behind it.

Courtyard by Marriott – Mathias Heise Quadrillion – 10:30pm

jazzahead! 2017 clubnight_MathiasHeiseQuadrillion_(c)_Nicho Oppermann
Mathias Heise Quadrillion | (c) Nicho Oppermann | Photo made available by jazzahead! 2017

Although not on our original list, we spontaneously decided to add the Mathias Heise Quadrillion as our last show of the evening. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the four, very young Danish guys take the stage — but they killed it with an energetic and edgy set highlighted by a soulful-wise-beyond-their-years harmonica. Also in between the songs, Mathias Heise offered sarcastic and very funny commentary.  I loved it!


If had more energy, I would have made my way to the next venue with more shows continuing into the wee hours, but I called it a night at this point. I really enjoyed the eclectic mix of both music and locations that the jazzhead! 2017 clubnight had to offer — it was a great way to spend a relaxed Saturday evening! Now I’m off to enjoy the rest of my long weekend…

Are you a jazz aficionado? What are you up to this weekend?

Life | An April Update

Life: An April Update | No Apathy Allowed

Something I really enjoy about Spring in Germany is the four-day weekend we have over Easter. It kind of makes up for the fact that I’m always working over Thanksgiving and Black Friday. ;) This year I didn’t have anywhere to be, so I enjoyed a laid back weekend, catching up on all the little corners of my life that have been neglected lately — I cooked, I baked, I cleaned, I went running (multiple times!), I went to the art museum, I slept a ridiculous amount, I became addicted to this series on Netflix, I balanced my checkbook (figuratively speaking, since no one uses checks here), I Instagrammed up a storm, I started listening to the new podcast S-Town — it’s been glorious!

I’ve also been doing some planning — I came up with my training plan for September’s Berlin Marathon. Yes, already! I’ll be using a 18-week  plan — starting towards the end of May — that has me running four times a week, plus one day of cross training. The mileage will stay about the same as last time, since my body seemed to handle that fine, but I will exchange an easy run for some speed/tempo work and will do a total of two 20-mile runs (instead of just one). Let’s see if I can run it a little faster than I did in Hamburg!

Other than that, I’m just happy to see that Spring has finally arrived, even if it’s still a little chilly. It makes me excited for all the big and little adventures I have planned for the next few months!

Life: An April Update | No Apathy Allowed

Life: An April Update | No Apathy Allowed

Life: An April Update | No Apathy Allowed

Life: An April Update | No Apathy Allowed

Life: An April Update | No Apathy Allowed

Life: An April Update | No Apathy Allowed

What have you been up to lately?

Looking Back at Travel in 2016

Yes, most people do their year-end travel roundups at year’s end — but hey, better late than never, right? I figured that I finally have a free moment and I should make the most of it. So let’s get started! The past year was full of travel to unexpected places…

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

First up in March was a work trip to this former Soviet republic in Central Asia. I spent most of my time in Bishkek, the capital city, and visited Ala-Too Square, the State History Museum, Panfilov Park, as well as Ala Archa National Park. I really had no preconceptions of what Bishkek would be like, and found it all to be super fascinating. Which is great, because it looks like I’ll be heading to the eastern part of the country in mid-2017!

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Istanbul and Sanliurfa, Turkey

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Like with Kyrgyzstan, I really wan’t expecting to head to Turkey even once, but somehow ended up there three times in 2016! The first visit was a week-long trip in June for a conference, which included lots of sightseeing and good food and coffee, plus a day trip to Heybeliada Island. A few weeks later, I spent another couple of nights in Istanbul, but this time didn’t really have a chance to escape the meeting location, but did thoroughly enjoy my 31st floor room with floor-to-ceiling windows! 

Finally, in November, I spent a few days in the south eastern corner of Turkey in Sanliurfa (known as the hometown of Abraham) and visited a container city for Syrian refugees near the shared border with Syria.  Unfortunately, the security situation in Turkey has been slowly, but surely declining for awhile now. Although I didn’t have any issues on my trips, each visit seemed to be bookended by explosions or attacks. In other words, I cherished the time I was able to spend in Turkey, because I don’t know for how much longer it is going to be safe to travel there.

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

New York and Washington, DC

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

This trip had me back in my old stomping grounds with a close group of friends from my grad school days in New York. In addition to our mini-reunion in DC, I also visited some new-to me sights: like the MLK Memorial, the Library of Congress, and the Wonder Exhibit at the Renwick Gallery. In New York, I mostly just visited my old haunts and spent time with friends. Both places are so familiarly comforting, and I always feel immediately at home in them.

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Stockholm, Sweden

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Perhaps one of the most entertaining travels of the year was my trip to Stockholm.  The work portion of my time in Sweden involved a formal dinner with the King of Sweden in the Parliament building, shaking his hand during a coffee break, a Smörgåsbord at the city hall, and mingling with ambassadors, military advisors, and NATO officials. Not my typical professional milieu, let’s just put it that way. Even more fun was the few days of free time with a colleague and friend afterwards, exploring the city up and down, an amazing meal at Fotografiska’s restaurant, and a drink at a bar made entirely of ice. Stockholm definitely won my heart!

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed


Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Of all my adventures in 2016, my trip to Nepal and trek along the Mardi Himal trail in the Himalayan mountains was probably the most rejuvenating and came at just the right time for me. Not only did I get to spend quality time with a good friend, I also made wonderful new friends in those mountains. It was so wonderful to strip away the hectic pace of everyday life and focus in on what matters.

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed


Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

And finally, what year would be complete without a trip to Seattle for the holidays? My hometown is still my favorite place on the planet and I am always a little sad to leave my family behind afterwards.

Looking Back at Travel in 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

So that’s it for 2016! If I can manage half as many adventures in 2017, I will be more than happy.

How are your travel plans shaping up for this year? Any place I should add to my travel list?

Books | The Rest of 2016

Books: The Rest of 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Books: The Rest of 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

In August, I shared my thoughts on the 10 books I had read so far in 2016 — so it’s long overdue for me to share a bit about the 8 books that rounded out the year…

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was by far my favorite among this group. It starts with two half-sisters born in Ghana in the 1700’s — one sold into slavery and the other married off to one of the Englishmen running the slave trade. The book follows their offspring into modern day, generation by generation, each chapter flipping back and forth between the two lineages. It very much reminded me of Alex Haley’s Roots, but with the stark contrast between the sisters’ different paths. So good!

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. Undoubtedly a classic, the books follows a young girl through her adolescence in rural Canada in the 1940s. Initially the story had a bit of a To Kill A Mockingbird feeling for me, but clearly focused on themes around girl- and womanhood. Definitely worth a read.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. It’s hard to feel ambivalent about Murakami’s books — I would guess you either love ’em or hate ’em. Kafka on the Shore is one of his most well known books , which I read with some friends who had recently returned from some time in Japan. We each read the book translated into our own native language (to see if part of the understanding of his stories relies on the translation) — English, German, and Romanian. I still think that my first Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, will always be my favorite, but Kafka on the Shore had plenty of strange and unsettling elements to keep you reading.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman was my least favorite book of the bunch and of the year. The premise is interesting: a lighthouse keeper and his wife living alone on an isolated small island on the coast of Australia between the World Wars. A small baby washes up on island in a boat, and instead of trying to find the baby’s mother, they keep her instead. I just didn’t find the main character at all sympathetic in her choices and spent much of the book being irritated with her, rather than having her situation wrench my heart.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. This book is the follow-up in the trilogy that began with Code Name Verity about female English fighter pilots in World War II, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first book. This story takes an even darker tone, as a pilot is shot down and held prisoner in the women’s concentration camp in Ravensbrück, about 50 miles north of Berlin. The details of the story are both shocking and painful to read, but the story is wonderful.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett was an interesting read, but not necessarily one of my favorites. The story follows the relationship between a teenage girl and a pastor’s son — and the resulting pregnancy, abortion, and cover-up — over the course of their adult lives. Their decision haunts everyone in the story, and kind of felt overdone to me.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I read this book back in 1999, but decided to read it again after returning from my trek in the Himalayas. Obviously, my experience hiking in those mountains pales in comparison to actual mountaineering, but it was fascinating to reread this account of the 1996 tragedy that occurred on Mount Everest. Even during our comparatively mild trek, there was a single hiker on his own who went missing along the highest stretch of the trail, resulting in search helicopters trying to locate him. In other words, respect for the mountains and the altitude was definitely at the top of my mind, and I loved rereading this book.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This novel requires a good portion of the suspension of disbelief, telling the tale of a man who  is unwillingly thrown backwards and forwards in time, and his relationship with the love of his life, who experiences his past, future, and present selves. Thinking about their story twists your mind a bit, and you can either make yourself crazy by trying to build a sensible timeline of their story, or you can just give into it and let it flow. It wasn’t my favorite book of all time, but certainly entertaining.

What do you think? Looking back over the entire year, my favorite books were Homegoing (mentioned above), A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, and When Breath Becomes Air. What were your favorite reads of 2016?