As The Wall Fell09 Nov 2009
It's strange that as the one world event that directly changed our lives, I don't remember where I was when the Berlin Wall fell or even exactly how I heard about it.
In November 1989 we were in Chandler, Arizona, over 5000 miles from Berlin. We had moved to Arizona in May, and we didn't yet have permanent jobs. At first we had both helped out managing a McDonald's restaurant in the desert, but we were sure our future would be in the Valley of the Sun. Frauke was at a restaurant in South Phoenix, I was working for a temp agency. We had picked a bad time to move to Arizona, though. The Savings and Loan crisis had broken out, and the economy was flat.
Arizona is 8 hours behind Germany, so evening in Berlin was early afternoon for us. We hadn't been following the events in East Germany that closely... we knew about the Monday Demonstrations, the refugees escaping through Hungary and Czechoslovakia and that there had been a large demonstration in East Berlin, but had no idea how close the regime was to collapse. Frauke got a call to turn on CNN from her friend Gabi, who herself had escaped from Hungary. I vaguely remember hearing the news in my car... it had to have been on the radio, on NPR, since it was still the BCP age (Before Cell Phones). I don't remember watching on television or thinking that the world from now on would be different.
What changed for us personally over the following weeks is that Germany became interesting. Germany and Europe would be changing for the better, and we could imagine spending a part of our future there, especially since the stalled economy in Arizona meant we weren't getting ahead where we were. It was in fact the franchisee in South Phoenix that suggested Frauke think about Germany, and he had the contacts within McDonald's get her application started.
By summer it was clear that the door was open if we wanted to make the move, and that it was time to make a decision. We were following that year's World Cup in Italy, and jokingly said that if Germany would win, we would move. The final was on July 8, Germany did win, and 6 weeks later we had sold or given away most of our possessions, packed a half-container with the rest, drove to Minnesota to say good-bye to my parents, loaded up 4 suitcases and 3 cats on a plane, and were on our way to Hamburg (first to Kiel, where we had a temporary apartment). Germany was not yet unified; reunification and the first elections took place that fall.
We ended up in Hamburg pretty much by chance. We figured we'd eventually end up in Berlin, but McDonald's didn't have an office there yet. They did have offices in Munich, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Hamburg, and applied to Hamburg as it was the closest to where Frauke grew up. It turned out we'd never leave.