Books | The Rest of 2017


Via Goodreads

It’s nearly the last day of the year, so it must be time to take a look at the books I read in the second half of 2017 — here’s a peek back at the first half of the year, if you’re curious.

The Idiot, by Elif Batuman (****). I really enjoyed this book! It so much reminded me of my first year of university in the mid-1990s…the sometimes pointless documentation of everyday observations and little details that an 18-year-old obsesses over sounded so much like my own journal writing at that age and time. I would have given it 5 stars, but it felt a bit too long at times.

Marina, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (***). I received the German translation of this book for my birthday and saved it for my evening reading at home. The story is based in Barcelona and centers around around two adolescents solving a fantastical mystery.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, by Sherman Alexie (*****). If you’re a fan of Sherman Alexie, this book will definitely give you some insights into the author and his writing. It focuses on Alexie’s complicated relationship with his mother who recently passed away, and is told in a very circular fashion, always returning to the beginning just when you think it has reached the end. It is a heartbreaking read of a very difficult life, but definitely worth the effort.

The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein (****).  If you liked Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, then this (comparatively) lighthearted prequel might also be for you. Set between the World Wars in Scotland, 15-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart and her crew solve a local mystery. I preferred the first two books, but this one was also pretty entertaining.

Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown (***). “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” This Teddy Roosevelt quote is the premise of this book. While there were interesting kernels here and there, I would have liked something a bit more meatier.

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (*****). This is a book that seemingly you either love or you really don’t — and I fall into the former category. Towards the beginning of the US Civil War, one of Abraham Lincoln’s sons died, and Lincoln reportedly returned to his son’s grave several times to visit his son’s body. Lincoln in the Bardo tells this story through the voices of all of the spirits stuck in between life and death in the graveyard, fighting over the soul of Willie Lincoln. Unusual and captivating, if you are willing to think outside of the box of the traditional novel.

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (*****). Without even intending to, the last book I finished reading in 2017 also had to do with spirits stuck in the in between, but this time in modern day Mississippi. The story is narrated by an adolescent boy, his meth-addict mother, and a ghost from his grandfather’s past. The long lasting effects of poverty and racial injustice drive the story, as do the enduring ties of family. While told in a very straightforward manner, this one definitely pulled at my heart strings.

Both Lincoln in the Bard and Sing, Unburied, Sing tie for my favorite books in the second half of 2017 — moving and unusual in their own unique ways, they really captured my whole attention. Next up for 2018 are No One is Coming to Save Us, Exit West, and Little Fires Everywhere.

What were your favorite books of the year?

December Reflections | Favorite Photos of 2017

Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Bremen sunset

It’s the time of year again to take a look back in preparation for looking forward. Even though it’s such a cliche, this year really has flown by. So fast, in fact, that I’ve barely had time to document any of it here. I didn’t travel as much as a did in 2016, but was happy to head back again to Kyrgyzstan and Norway for work, and to the East Coast and NYC for vacation.

My Nikon rarely saw the light of day this year; most of my photography has been with my iPhone — and I’ve really enjoyed the simplicity of it. But I hope to get back to the challenge and technical precision of shooting with my DSLR again in the coming year. I’ve just downloaded Lightroom to get me back into the groove, and am looking into the A Color Story presets — does anyone have experience with these? Which are your favorites?

In any case, to round up 2017, here are 10 of my favorite photos from the past year. Some you have certainly seen in other blog posts, and a few you definitely have not. Hope you enjoy a brief look back!

Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Sunset over the Weser
Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
New York City | View from the Whitney
Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Bremen’s Wohnzimmer
Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
In Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof
Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
View from my balcony
Favorite Photos of 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Oslo Harbor

Are you ready for the end of the year? Or are you holding on for dear life?

Race Report | Berlin Marathon 2017

Race Report: Berlin Marathon 2017

And just like that, my second ever marathon is in the books! Two weeks ago I completed the Berlin Marathon, and while it didn’t go exactly as planned, I am still really happy and proud of the accomplishment. That being said, it was a very different experience than my first marathon in Hamburg

Before the race

I started my training toward the end of May — this time around, I had added some speed work into the mix and was feeling pretty strong. I was more or less hitting my  training runs and had a really solid 20-miler about three weeks before the marathon. But for the two weeks immediately preceding the race — a time when you should be running a bit less, relaxing, sleeping a lot, and taking care of yourself — I was completely slammed at work and was spending very long and stressful days working, having a hard time sleeping because of the stress and adrenalin, and not running at all during the work week. It wasn’t a complete surprise, but I had been hoping that I would be able to manage it better than I did. In any case, as race day approached, I was basically just holding on for dear life and hoping I would stay healthy.

So, not ideal. I was training with the goal of running a 4:30 marathon or under, but I also would have been happy with anything under my previous time (4:38). Approaching marathon weekend, I had become a bit more realistic about the situation given the exhausted state my body was in, and decided just to give it my best and not stress too much about time.

I had a relaxed trip to Berlin on Friday evening, picked up my start number without too much ado on Saturday morning, and had a relaxed day and a nice pasta dinner at a neighborhood restaurant near my friend’s place.

Race Report: Berlin Marathon 2017
The weather during most of the day on Saturday actually wasn’t bad!

During the race

Getting to the race and to the start was relatively uneventful. It had been raining heavily the entire night before and it continued to drizzle for most of the first half of the race.  I wore my friend’s old jacket and a plastic bag right up until the start to stay warm and dry, and I continued with the jacket for a kilometer or two until I got warm. I could feel already within the first five kilometers that it wasn’t going to be as smooth of a race as I was hoping for.

Although I was hitting the same 5K-splits that I had during the Hamburg Marathon — in fact up until about 35K (22 miles), they were nearly identical — it took way more effort to maintain them than I wanted. When it already feels hard during the first 13 miles, you know you’ve got a long race ahead of you!

By the time I hit about the 22-mile mark, I was just holding on and giving It all I had. Luckily, I had a cheerleader on the sidelines and he kindly joined me for miles 22-24 to keep my spirits up — even though I really wasn’t very good company (which makes me think of this running t-shirt).  And for the first time ever, I also experienced the onset of cramping in my quads around this point. They never fully cramped, but I did have to stop a couple of times to stretch them out before I could keep going.

So in essence, for the last four miles, I was just gritting my teething and pushing myself on to the finish. I really didn’t let myself think of anything else besides finishing each mile I was in. I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:48:16  — almost exactly 10- minutes slower than in Hamburg, but still somehow proud of my determination to finish.

Race Report: Berlin Marathon 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
The elite men. You can see the winner, Eliud Kipchog, on the left with the white shirt and sleeves, who finished in 2:02:57
Race Report: Berlin Marathon 2017
Spectating properly also requires preparation!

After the race

While I am of course disappointed not to have met my goal time, overall I am happy with the mere fact that I finished! I still think it’s rather amazing what your body can accomplish when you will it to — even under less than ideal circumstances. That’s what all those other weeks of training  allowed me to do…they built the base which helped me cross the finish line, even if it wasn’t with a personal record.

My muscles were stiff for a few days afterwards, but by Thursday they were feeling fine again. The exhaustion stuck around for a little while longer though, but by now I’ve managed a couple of recovery runs and I am looking forward to a Fall and Winter of relaxed running. I definitely want to take on the challenge of another marathon, but not anytime soon!

Do you have any marathon wisdom to share with me? I’d love to hear it!

Photos | August Break 2017

Photos | August Break 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Day One: Morning

And just like that, it’s September. The students are back on campus, and the new academic year will be in full swing next week. Since I am skipping the Fotomarathon this year in favor of resting my legs up for tomorrow’s 20-mile run, I’m particularly keen on sharing photos with you today. So here are some Instagram shots from August Break 2017 — something I participate in each summer (like here and here and here) to help inspire my creativity a bit — focusing on a few goodies that I haven’t already shared in my previous post on my summer vacation.

Photos: August Break 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Day Twenty: I Love
Photos | August Break 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Day Twenty-One: Monochrome
Photos | August Break 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Day Twenty-Six: Window

And that wraps up August! Are you ready for Fall to begin?

Travels | How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Now, you could argue that summer never really got underway here in Bremen — and I would definitely have to agree. But summer in the sense of life slowing down a bit, longer days, and the anticipation of traveling and see friends was alive and real in these parts. After spending all of July trying to catch up from the spring and prepare for fall at work, I was very happy to take off for two weeks at the beginning of August for a little tour of the East Coast, seeing some of my favorite people and places.

My first stop was Northampton, Massachusetts to visit a good friend, see her new hometown, her new home, and meet her lovely daughter. It was a crazy long travel day, involving flying to Frankfurt, then to JFK, then getting into the city, then taking an Amtrak (somehow I managed to forget over the past 9 years since I left NYC what a hell hole Penn Station is) up to Connecticut, then another to Springfield, MA, and finally a cab to Northampton. I arrived there about 24 hours after my alarm went off in Bremen that morning. But I’m not complaining — especially since I got super lucky on the Frankfurt-JFK leg of my journey and was bumped up to Business Class by Lufthansa — heavenly! I savored every single second of it because, seriously, how often does that happen?? And on a transatlantic flight, to boot?

In any case, I really loved wandering around Northampton and enjoying some of my favorite spots from previous visits up to Western Mass.  Highlights included enjoying fresh, locally grown produce with every meal, early morning jet lagged induced runs, eating pie for breakfast, and an evening walk to the Smith College gardens.

Love these quaint New England homes, don't you? ?

File 27.08.17, 13 25 38.jpeg

Good morning all! This is my last morning in Northampton, so let me share this beautiful mural of the women of Northampton with you. If you follow my InstaStories, you might have seen the video of the whole length of it yesterday. So lovely!

After arriving late Wednesday night, my friend and I were off on Friday morning to drive down to Dutchess County, NY for a reunion of some grad school friends (just like last year!), stopping along the way to pick up another friend in the Berkshires. I must say that once again, our AirBnB selection was a smash hit!  The house and the surrounding gardens were breathtaking! There were four bedrooms and four bathrooms, which was more than enough space for the eight of us. There was a huge dining table and kitchen, two different outdoor lounging spaces, plus a hot tub (which we made use of the second night), and fire pit for roasting marshmallows (which we made use of the first night). We went for a run on Saturday morning, lounged through the afternoon with lots of rosé and some homemade margaritas, and just like last year, we hired a personal chef to come cook us dinner on Saturday night (so decadent and so wonderful!).

That weekend was so good for my soul. It’s rare to find kindred spirits and I am so grateful that we all met almost exactly 15 years ago, and for every minute we can spend together. Life can be difficult in so many ways — and that’s not something that any of us can change — but it makes my heart swell to know that there’s this group of women who will celebrate and support each other through all of life’s up and downs.

File 27.08.17, 13 31 43.jpeg

A perfect dinner table for eight kindred spirits. ??

Already back in city, but still feeling like my soul is full from time with good friends. ?

Early Sunday afternoon, after a round of ice cream sandwiches and not a few tears, we all parted ways again. This time, I headed down to NYC with two friends in a classic, red Ford convertible — with the top down, of course. After spending the afternoon having a late lunch together in Bryant Park before my friend’s flight back across the ocean, I made my way up to Morningside Heights — which is nearly always my home base whenever I make it back to the city, thanks to a good friend’s generosity and guest bedroom!

Unfortunately, I had already started coming down with a cold on Sunday, so I stocked up on some heavy duty cold medicine (yay, USA!) and went to bed early. I felt pretty terrible all day on Monday, so I just slept and rested all day. But I started feeling a bit better over the next couple of days, and luckily was able to meet friends (from Bremen — wow, worlds colliding!) for Ethiopian food, saw the Calder exhibit at the Whitney, found my favorite strawberry and basil popsicles on the Highline, visited the Oculus for the first time, met a friend for Mexican food in Chinatown and ice cream on the LES, and saw Dunkirk at an IMAX cinema. I always feel at home in the city, and this visit was no different — thanks NYC for always holding your arms wide open for me!

File 27.08.17, 13 33 48.jpeg

Despite a pesky cold, I did manage to pack in plenty of fun here in New York!

I'm craving a little West Village sunshine this morning, how about you? #augustbreak2017?

My favorite color? Really anything vibrant and full of life! #augustbreak2017 #LarryBell #WhitneyMuseum?

While there was no upgrade to business class on my flights home, I couldn’t have been happier after my wonderful trip, and I’m pretty sure I was glowing the whole way home.

What have you been up to over your summer vacation? 

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?