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Free form essays

FLiMM of “mid-length films”

© Simon Arcache

The term “mid-length films” is used very seldomly. We live in a world of full-length movies and short films. In France, this term is not recognized officially, yet such movies exist. Mid-length films are characterized by conditional duration from 30 to 60 minutes. 

They are seldom released, which puts them in opposition to traditional cinema. Besides, the National Center of Cinema in France simply does not recognize the existence of such a format. Financial support in the form of subsidies is instead distributed between short films (1-59min) and full-length movies (over 60min). Nevertheless, there is a festival of mid-length films, the only one of its kind for a long time, – Festival du Cinema de Brive, also called Recontres Internationales du Moyen Metrage (International Cinema-Meetings of Mid-Length films), which has been taking place in the south of France since 2004. 

Another film festival celebrating the format was created in 2017. FLiMM (Festival Libre de Moyen Metrage, or Free festival of mid-length films) was organized by Agathe Debary, Annabelle Avanturin, Thibaul Jaquin Jaquin and Theo Carrere. Thomas Paulot and Bullet Meigna later joined them. The festival takes place in art-squat DOC (which has existed since 2015), located in the 19th department of Paris. About a hundred creative people live and work there. DOC is an association that doesn’t have any commercial purposes. All the points concerning the organization of events are settled by agreement of members of the administrative council. Freedom of the festival expresses itself in several ways.

© Simon Arcache

It starts with the price: everybody pays as much as one can or considers reasonable. Such an approach reflects the social, political, and cultural position of the organizers. The festival is also free in the sense that it’s being based not on competitive aspect. There are no prizes for the best direction or the script. The festival is based on the principle of accessibility and open, respectful dialogue. Everybody is allowed to watch a movie and discuss it with other viewers and the directors who present their films. Movies of all genres are allowed to participate in the festival, but documentary movies prevail because many documentaries have mid-length footage. 

The topics of the movies that qualified for the festival are often social. The festival team sticks to an active life position and tries to show modern cinema that is not afraid to ask difficult and inconvenient questions; movies with heroes you don’t meet in mainstream films. Quite often, it is movies that describe a part of someone’s story or of the life of a state. Movies of a hybrid form deviating from standards are very welcome.

The pandemic had its adjustments during the 4th festival in 2020.

Despite the threat of lockdown, the organizers were getting ready for the festival in a normal rhythm. Five days before the start of the festival, the authorities have imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. All evening sessions and one show outside the squat were canceled. Viewers were forced to leave at 8:30 to observe the curfew. Despite the pandemic, there were many visitors, which was surprising for organizers and volunteers. Everyone was sad to leave so early. More than ever, people wanted to be together and discuss the movies. A day after the festival closed, a national lockdown was declared. All the museums and cinemas were closed again. 

FLiMM is about movies in the first place, but it’s also a great family of friends and relatives of the team who take part in the organization of the festival as volunteers. Technical preparation for the festival begins a week before. Movies are shown in two cinema rooms, one of which is created almost from nothing. It’s an exhibition space with a white wall, equipped with carpet and theater curtains. The curtains, by the way, are rented from one of the largest theaters in Paris.

The last day of the festival is reserved for general cleaning. This year volunteers and carpenters even built a bar stand. The bar is also a very important part of the festival; it is the very place where all gather together to drink a glass of beer at an affordable price and discuss the movie of the night. Guests can also have dinner before the last showing while paying as much as they can afford. A team of volunteer cooks prepares the menu in advance, and the most popular dish is Italian arancini. As the festival is based on volunteer work, it takes place from Friday to Sunday evening. It is always a busy weekend. And for organizers and volunteers, there is always Monday for cleaning and discussing the festival! 

https://flimm.work

https://www.instagram.com/flimmfestival/

Translated by Cyril Korobenin

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Free form essays

Ryan Michael James: the pandemic taught me that before we are artists, we are human

Credit: Anthony Joseph

I started performing professionally when I was 18 years old. At 19, I was offered a job dancing on an international tour, so I left college to travel the world.

That show snowballed into the next and the next — it was all very serendipitous. Before I knew it, eight years had passed, and I was still performing. Living in NYC, I was hustling as any actor does: standing in line at auditions, juggling multiple “survival jobs,” participating in workshops to be noticed by casting directors, traveling for gigs outside of the city, squeezing in classes and lessons to hone my craft.

It was an exhausting grind fueled by caffeine and catnaps on the subway. But for my entire adult life, my primary source of income had been from working as a performer. I’m very lucky because so many people are fruitlessly working to make it in this industry. While I wasn’t Brad Pitt, by any means, performing was paying the bills. 

2019 was a difficult year, and my performing career came to a screeching halt. I was still fortunate to be working, but that work came at a great cost to my mental health.

I was performing on a Broadway national tour with a grueling schedule of countless one-nighters, long travel days, and terrible pay.

“One-nighters” is a phrase used when the show only stops in a city for one night before traveling to the next. There were times we would perform in five or six cities in a single week, with a grand total of 86 cities in a short six-month contract.

While seeing the world may sound exciting, a tour like that usually consists only of the exhausting, tedious parts of travel (busy airports, cramped buses, terrible lunches at rest areas with limited food options).

There were very few opportunities to take advantage of the actual exciting parts of traveling. When my family says to me, “You’ve seen the whole country!” my response is usually, “I’ve seen a lot of hotels and Walmarts.” It was a battle. I was so poor and exhausted, but I was traveling, and I was on stage. Shouldn’t I have been grateful?

Immediately after that tour ended, I began a contract singing onboard a cruise line. That was cut short due to an unfortunate experience I had with a fellow castmate. I was a victim of a bad situation, and when I tried to report the incident and ask for help, management turned a blind eye, and the cruise line fired me without investigating the issue properly.

I felt helpless. I had no money to my name, and I had to move back home to Central Florida to stay with my family. I curled myself up into a pathetic ball in their spare bedroom and didn’t come out for almost a month. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. I had worked so diligently and had done everything supposedly right. What was wrong with me that I had let that happen?

Luckily, I have a wonderful support system, including a best friend who encouraged me to move to Fort Lauderdale with her. She promised to help get me back on my feet, find a job, scrape some money together, and decide whether going back to New York and back into the grind that had nearly killed me before was the right choice.

That’s when the pandemic hit.

At first, it felt like an answer from the Universe. It was obviously a sign that I wasn’t meant to return to performing. With that chapter of my life officially behind me, I was excited to start my new life in South Florida. During those initial few months of the shutdown, I found a job, enrolled myself back into college, moved into my own apartment, and adopted a dog and cat.

I was happy. I was finally able to do all the things that seemed impossible before. I loved spending time sitting on the beach. I cherished nights at home with my animals. I braved the bars and restaurants (when they reopened) in hopes of finding a new tribe of friends. For the first time in my adult life, I felt like a normal human being.  

But I felt empty. My artistic soul was not filled by my new jobs: bartending and answering a customer service hotline. I did everything I could to scratch that creative itch, though. I sang in the car, created silly little music videos, taught myself to play a few songs on my keyboard, watched movies, performed karaoke with friends… But I was nagged by that voice in the back of my head telling me I had given up too soon.

About a year into the pandemic, an audition notice for a small local theater production appeared on Facebook. Coincidentally, the audition happened to be on one of my very rare nights off, and the show was a perfect fit for me. I figured, “What the heck? The worst they can say is no. Besides, it’s not like I really do this anymore. What do I have to lose?”  

I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. That show was the most rewarding experience of my life. More than dancing on a Broadway tour; more than meeting world-famous rock bands; more than traveling the world. Performing on that tiny stage in that little Florida town and being part of that small production was like a shock to my nervous system — it was a euphoria that I forgot existed.  

That show was therapy. I channeled two years of repressed hurt, anger, confusion, and rage into that iconic role, finally able to release it out of my heart. I cried on stage every single night; the audience cried every single night. I somehow connected my own unique, heartbreaking experience to this character’s unique, heartbreaking experience, and the audience received it through the lens of their unique, heartbreaking experiences.  

Connection. Humanity.

Connecting to that thing that makes us all human. That is art.

I believe at the root of it, humans have more in common than we do differences. We all need love, crave support, and desire connection. We want to be understood, feel seen, and be heard. We thirst for shared experiences and those things that bring us together, especially in this time when our political climate is so ready to tear us apart. That is what art did for the world during the pandemic: it brought us together in a world when we felt isolated, alone, and divided.  

That one little show I did received positive buzz within the community. Suddenly, I had other directors contacting me. Before I knew it, I had shows lined up consecutively for the next year. Much to my surprise, I am back to being a full-time performer here in South Florida.

The pandemic was a wake-up call. It forced me to stop dead in my tracks. I was on a never-ending hamster wheel, tirelessly running, grinding, hustling, working myself quite literally to death. I was working so hard and for so long that I forgot my why. I forgot why I was doing it and what I was doing it for. I forgot who I was doing it for.

It made me take a moment to stop, breathe, and process everything that happened to me so that I may begin to heal. Without that moment of pause, I would have simply swallowed and ignored the pain because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. Only, it would have resurfaced and consumed me the moment I felt overwhelmed again. I’ve now come to accept that those experiences will forever be a part of me. They have undoubtedly shaped me into the man I am and will become, but they do not define me.  

It made me reprioritize my values. My Instagram feed shifted away from perfectly curated photos of fake smiles in exciting travel destinations towards candid photos of slobbery puppy kisses and laughter with family and friends. I stopped counting followers and worrying if my posts were “on brand.” Making new friends in a new town introduced me to the kinds of people I want in my inner circle and reminded me of those I don’t.

It made me reevaluate my own worth. I know what I will tolerate from an employer, colleagues, and peers. More importantly, I know what I will not. I’m much more confident in those things and in who I am than ever before.  

Admittedly, I’m still a bit of a workaholic. But I now appreciate the importance of downtime and am quicker to demand time and space for those things that matter. I’ve missed so many important moments before — weddings, funerals, family time — all for the sake of “being a team player.”  

As artists, we’re conditioned to believe that we have to sacrifice everything for our art. We’re sold this “starving artist” ideology and told we ought to be grateful for any work we’re given because there are tens of thousands of people waiting to take our place. I do not deny the importance of gratitude, but I reject the notion of the starving artist who must risk it all. Our society is constantly consuming art, so we have to start treating our artists with more respect. Acknowledge their dedication, compensate them accordingly for their time and effort, appreciate their boundaries, and grant them the same quality of life we’d want for ourselves.  

The pandemic taught me that before we are artists, we are human.

And if we can’t prioritize ourselves as humans first, then there can’t be art.

Ryan Michael James currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Before the pandemic, he was an actor, singer, and dancer in musical theater living in New York City. 

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Free form essays

Macha Lemaître: culture and art did not make the “essential services” list

This morning, while reading the news, I learned about a new variant of Сovid-19, which seems very dangerous. The health restrictions are tightening in France, and some neighboring countries have already decided to start another lockdown. My throat tightens.

I remember having the same feeling less than two years ago.

On March 11, 2020, I wanted to start my brand new project, lent a place for it, had friends around me to support it. It would have been a fantastic party, a spring for my art, a great new start.

Instead, we were advised to stay at home. The next day the government officially announced the start of lockdown. I spent a few months in isolation with my partner and our two-year-old son.

Day after day, we had a thousand things to do, and at the same time, nothing was happening. We had anxiety about this unknown virus. I could not go outside, could not tour, did not have any contact with my audience. The pages of social media and news feed became the background of life. Culture and art did not make the “essential services” list.

A thousand questions swirled in my mind every day. What will I do if we don’t reopen? If I had to change careers to survive, what would I do then? I could not find answers.

I participated in some collaborative videos with my artist friends. In one of them, my friend Judith showed our group of friends. I thought it was terrific.

The French government decided to support people with artistic professions who had temporary contracts and released funds to help them. Not every artist made the cut.

I was one of the lucky ones; I should have been happy and waited patiently for the end of the pandemic. But I felt a burning need to create and go back to my audience.

I look at the page, which stays desperately blank because of my lack of inspiration, lack of walks outside, fascinating conversations, and absurd ideas that appear when I look at paintings at the museum or observe people on the subway and the streets. It feels like this hell will never end.

Then, when the number of people getting sick went down, we could go outside again. The restrictions were lifted. I returned to rehearsals and saw my colleagues again; I cried with emotion when I smelled the familiar backstage smell of the theater, a mixture of fireproof paint, dust, and old fears.

I found that my voice had matured; maybe I have done so as well.

It took some time before people were allowed to public performances again. On a cold morning in April, I went to a peaceful protest for the reopening of theaters and concert halls in front of the Odéon theater. I supported the artists and the creators, art students who worked in Paris and other theaters all over France.

Eventually, we got permission to perform in schools again. I rushed into it with a student theater company, to which I owe a lot.

Little by little, we were once again able to organize “real” concerts and play our music. We found that our audience welcomed us back with warmth and gratitude, like seeing old friends years later. Nothing has changed. My life was again full of music; I spent a lot of time on the stage. I was able to relaunch my project; we were playing a lot of concerts, more than ever before.

I lost some connections in this fight. I mourned the death of a stereotypical career only to invent a tailor-made one for myself.

Some mornings were almost careless. Until this morning.

Macha Lemaître is a classical music performer. She grew up in Paris, where she still lives and works today. She studied music at the Normal School of Music in Paris (Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris) and graduated from the Master’s program for adults in Notre Dame de Paris.

In this essay, Macha shares her thoughts about what art and its creators went through during this controversial period between the lockdowns of last year and potential new restrictions.

You can follow her projects at https://www.magique-lyrique.fr/.

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Free form essays

Freedom of having children late

Credit: Adrian Hillman, iStock

When I was a little girl, I thought I would have two kids by the time I was 25. Granted, I grew up in Russia, where getting married young and having children young has been an accepted tradition for a very long time. Instead, I went to college, worked as a journalist for a while, and then moved to the US.

In my early twenties, the last thing on my mind was, “where do I find a fine man who can be the father to my future children?” Instead, I was thinking about how to get the tickets to the latest DJ set or use my journalist ID to get to the backstage of concerts (after using it first to get in for free). I traveled, I made friends, I fell in love. I made stupid decisions. Probably some good ones, too. But the twenties seem like the perfect time for screwing things up and learning from your mistakes.

I did get married for the first time when I was 27. He was much older than me, and having kids right away just wasn’t something we discussed. I felt I had a lot of time, and our financial situation was far from ideal. When I got divorced two years later, not having children (or any property together) was more of a blessing than a regret.

Only in my early thirties did I finally find myself, learned to listen to my desires, and treat my body and mind with the love they deserved all along. I moved across the country, traveled even more, got a new job. I started going to therapy (that divorce was a great thing for me but still left me in shambles).

I am trying to say that up until I was about 31-32, I wasn’t too concerned about having kids. I was hoping to meet someone soon, who would be a good husband and a father. I knew I was getting close to the moment when I would want to become a mom. But I also enjoyed being single, discovering the world, and learning how to be genuinely happy on my own. In other words, I was growing up and becoming the person I was meant to be.

Maybe it is the privilege of our comfortable times and both countries where I grew up and now live. We don’t have to do farm work from an early age; we can get good education, travel, build careers and write dissertations. We are not required to marry a wealthy neighbor to help our family out or birth half a dozen kids to help with the chores around the house. Times are changing, and in many countries, women have kids much later in life.

I am one of those women, and I think it’s ok. I also think people need to stop asking us when we will finally start pushing babies out, “like we are supposed to.”

One of the Russian politicians went viral last year when she said that women should ideally have kids before the age of 25, so maybe the schools need to do a better job at explaining to girls how important this is. Women who give birth later than that she called “the old birth givers.” The term is not new and was widely used in Soviet times. It refers to women who become mothers after they turn 27.

Russian society did not take her comments lightly and suggested she leaves it to women to decide what to do with their bodies and instead focuses on astonishing levels of poverty amongst single mothers in Russia. While the attitudes of younger generations are certainly changing, a doctor in a Russian infertility clinic still might suggest a husband (of any age) chooses a younger wife if the current “after 30” partner is not successful in conceiving a firstborn.

A couple of years ago I went for a walk with a friend. He lives in Madrid; we have known each other for many years but never had a chance to meet. I was in town for work, and we decided to go for a stroll and grab dinner together. It was a perfectly lovely evening, up until we started talking about our personal lives. I told him I was dating someone, and I believed we would get married at some point and start a family. To this, my perfectly kind and well-meaning friend said, “Oh yeah, it is time to start trying for kids, no? How old are you, 33? 34?”

Because I was going to therapy for years and was able to react to things better, I did not burst into tears or scream at him. I calmly explained how inappropriate this question was and suggested he should never say that to another woman. He apologized profusely and felt so bad he insisted on paying for dinner.

I don’t think my friend is a horrible person. I think it is just too normalized to ask such questions and make jokes about the subject. People rarely realize that they might be hurting others with their unwelcome inquiries.

Yes, we are having kids when we are much older. Our lives and attitudes towards motherhood are changing. Still, our bodies are largely the same as they always were, with the exception of the availability of much better nutrition and medicine. This means that having kids can be difficult at any age, but it sometimes becomes even more difficult later in life.

I have friends who have been trying to conceive for years. I know a few girls that are currently going through IVF treatments and a few others that just gave birth after it. I know women who suffered miscarriages. Fertility is a difficult subject, and problems with it can be devastating to the family. It is also not something couples might discuss with friends or acquaintances in a casual conversation.

When someone asks, “when the babies are coming,” or comments on a woman’s weight gain with suggestions of pregnancy (which can be completely random or a result of hormone therapy to battle infertility), they don’t know how much pain they are causing.

Not everyone is ready to have kids at the same time. Some people decide not to have them at all, and that is also ok. Some families wait years to have a kid and focus on other things in life. Others have six children and are universally hated by everyone who has the misfortune to dine at the same restaurant with their large brood.

Let’s agree not to ask stupid questions about fertility, lack of kids, not enough kids, kids of opposite gender “to finally have a boy/girl,” and all other things that are none of our damn business. Let’s learn as a society to be better and do better. We must remember that even the questions that come from the most loving heart of a good friend or an elderly relative can be hurtful and most definitely unnecessary.

Let’s learn different ways to ask married couples about how they are doing and to check in on single female friends approaching their mid-thirties. Talk to them about their favorite Netflix shows. Discuss plants and dogs – no one will get mad at you if you ask people when they are going to finally get a puppy. Devise the plan to take the patriarchy down and solve the climate change crisis. Just stop asking women about having kids.

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Free form essays

Freedom of a mother

Credit: Linda

Our reader shares her view of what freedom means for her as a mother living between Turkey and Germany.

When asked about freedom, I wanted to write about freedom of choice as a mother. I am a mother of two, a 4-year-old girl and an 8-month-old boy, both amazing children. I am German, but we live in Turkey, in the city of Edirne, near the Greek and Bulgarian border. I gave birth to both of my children here.

I feel very privileged when I think about the freedom of choice that I have. I know about families that are staying apart because the mother has to live in another country for work; there is a lot of work migration from Eastern to Western Europe. Turkey is rather a destination for migrant workers from even further East nowadays, like our friends from Afghanistan, young fathers working in Edirne, leaving their wives and children behind, in order to support their families.

As a mother, I also had the freedom to choose where to give birth to my children. We moved to Turkey when I was 3 months pregnant. At the time, I was very unsure whether I could imagine giving birth here, in a foreign country with a foreign language, under the care of a health system I knew almost nothing about. In hindsight, I am more than content about our choice to stay here. The health system is very professionally managed, and I had the freedom to choose a natural birth (instead of the predominant birth style of planned cesarian in Turkey). 

My gynecologist was very much in favor of natural birth. In the Turkish medical system, the gynecologist who supports the woman during pregnancy is also with her during birth, together with several nurses and a midwife. I have heard stories from friends in Germany, that they were often left alone as a couple during labor for long periods, as clinics in big cities are too busy and understaffed. We ended up staying in a hospital after birth for another night because it was so comfortable and the staff was so supportive to us in this new situation.

Having a baby (especially your first) doesn’t leave a lot of freedom for the parents. It is not easy and has its ups and downs, but the most important thing about raising children is having support and people around you, in my opinion. 

With my parents-in-law living only 15 minutes away and my husband being self-employed and having flexible hours, we could always go see the pediatrician together. Again, I heard about the desperate hunts for an appointment for the third-day routine check-up in cities like Munich – all pediatricians would be full or not accept new patients. 

I always felt very supported as a mom and see it as a positive thing for my children to be able to stay and interact with other people, even if it is just for a few minutes when they are very small. They are learning from a variety of humans while knowing that the love and care of their mom are always there when needed.

I also had the freedom to choose to start working again very soon after birth, when my daughter was 4,5 months old, which is more than unusual in Germany. Due to the governmental regulations such as paid leave and job guarantees for parents, the vast majority of moms there stay home with the baby at least until it is one year old. Dads usually stay home for 2 months only, as governmental support in Germany provides 14 months of paid leave that can be shared among the parents, with one parent needing to take at least 2 months. Dads mostly do the minimum.

I had the freedom to work part-time, 16 hours a week on two days during the first year, then moving up to 25 hours a week. I was working from home on my computer for my company in Germany, while my daughter was with a nanny/house helper, a local woman a little older than me who had never worked before but was more than happy to earn money herself, a very positive, smiling, much-loving friend for both my children and me. 

When my daughter was 14 months old, she started going to kindergarten for several hours a week. She loved it and had a very good balance of only sleeping at home, getting enough rest, and enjoying the interactions with other children. 

We had the freedom to travel to Germany every two months with the baby. The trips helped us establish a good, trusting connection with my part of our family there as well. It also allowed my daughter to learn German as well as Turkish.

I had the freedom to choose not to buy all the luxury, woolen or wooden made, seemingly eco-friendly clothes and toys for my daughter that seem to be the necessary (but very expensive!) standard for the middle-class parents in Germany. I kind of pity the families living in Munich, for example. I see them as victims of the need to earn the money to make a living in this expensive city. Being forced to maintain a certain level of income gives them a lot less freedom of how to structure their family life and life in general.

I had the freedom of choice to do a couple of work trips to Germany and Western Europe when my daughter was around one year old. My husband would spend the day with her, going to the zoo, the aquarium, and making me a little jealous of their adventures.

During the pandemic, the newspaper columns on parentship in Germany were full of complaints about how difficult the situation is, how parents have to balance work and child care, how little politicians think about families and their needs. 

I was feeling for them and supported their desire to be heard. Nevertheless, I think that instead of complaining, we should make ourselves more aware of the possibilities and the freedoms we have. 

I can personally say that we did not suffer due to the pandemic. Of course, we were all scared at the beginning. I was mostly afraid of what would happen if someone in my family in Germany would get sick and I would not be able to go see them. But we adjusted quickly. 

I continued to work. The kindergarten closed for some time, because of safety concerns. Our nanny and then my husband were able to stay home with our daughter for a month each, then her Turkish grandma looked after her for two months, and after that the kindergarten re-opened and we chose to send her there again.

It was a free choice for us to have a second child, but it was not our first choice to become pregnant during the pandemic. Nevertheless, I have not regretted it at all. Doctor appointments were a bit more regulated, and during birth, the father couldn’t come to the labor room, but he could be at the hospital. It was the opposite of Germany, where the fathers were allowed in the labor rooms only, but not in the hospital in general. Pushing the second baby out only took me 15 minutes anyway, and then my husband, our new child, and I were reunited.

With my son, we could not travel to Germany as before due to the coronavirus, but we had the chance to move there temporarily for a few months when he was 3,5 months old. The car trip from Turkey to Germany usually is a 16 hours drive, plus one night spent in a hotel. It is not easy, but doable, and we have done it several times already. In fact, it seems to be the most common way of travel for Turkish families living in Western Europe.

Because we chose to move for 4 months, my firstborn could experience kindergarten in Germany. I found it to be a very enriching experience for her and she enjoyed her time there a lot. I think German kindergartens emphasize much more that children play freely and with less organized activities than Turkish kindergartens. Teachers in Turkey establish a somewhat closer connection with the kids, interacting with them very lovingly and warmly. In our temporary kindergarten in the German village, everything was closer to nature, with a big garden and kids watching little frogs grow.

In Turkey, our kindergarten is all-inclusive and flexible regarding food and eating times. When we get there late, at 10:30 am, for example, the teacher would say: « Has my little sheep had breakfast yet? No? Then I will prepare something for her.»

I find these differences only enriching, and I am happy my child could experience kindergarten in both countries.

Here we are now, excited about what else we will see and live through as a family. I want to repeat my point: instead of complaining, we should make ourselves more aware of the possibilities we have and the freedom of choice. And that often, choices are not made easily and freely, as we have specific stereotypes about different countries in our minds. Such as that life in Turkey must be worse and more difficult than life in Germany.

I have learned to see the good and difficult parts of living in both countries. I do not really have a favorite place to live in, but I encourage everybody to explore and not trust the stereotypes and fears. Even if moving to a different place with two kids means packing a lot of stuff and traveling, while one of them needs to be breastfed every hour. Organizing this is exhausting and can make you cry in between doing what needs to be done. Hopefully, your family and friends will be there to help and support you. But either way, if you muster the courage, you will experience a lot of amazing things and enrich your life.