Wandering and Wondering

A cross-cultural memoir – illustrated by the author.

Married to an Australian in Germany, a stylish apartment, a successful career in public relations, Bettina Deda is well settled in her Wiesbaden routine. Her life is ordered and predictable, and she likes it that way. However, there is always the dormant desire to work creatively, to paint and draw, to connect to the world of art and design.

One day, her husband comes home telling her that a company in Sydney has offered him a job. Bettina instantly feels that this is the sign from the universe she has waited for in the past ten years – after being robbed so cruelly of the two most important women in her life. Although it takes all her courage, she decides to leave everything behind that means something to her: her family, her friends, her career and her beautiful family home that she and her husband renovated a few years earlier to accommodate the growing family.

In June 2008, she arrives in Australia with her husband, two young boys and four suitcases to start a new chapter of her life.

From finding a home to live in, her first shopping experiences, conversations in the supermarket, observations about Sydney traffic and driving on the left side of the road, to coping with unknown forces of nature, settling the children into their school, and trying to make new friends – Bettina faces new challenges on a daily basis.

Following her creative calling she immerses herself in the world of drawing and painting and becomes a member of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The moment she walks through the large timber doors she feels like she is diving into a pool of refreshing water after a hot summer day – entering a world of silence, freedom, creativity, and happiness. The art gallery – a perfect place to contemplate and spend time on her own – makes her smile and her heart sing.

Her enduring interest in beautiful objects, art, writing and culture, which is emphasised right through part one of the memoir, eventually leads her to a design school and starting a business venture in the interior design industry. She quickly notices that she can capitalise on her professional skills as a PR consultant and combines her passion for colour and interiors with her love for writing to self-publish the first practical guide for empty nesters planning to downsize their home.

In 2014, she comes across a book that triggers the desire to learn more about her family history. In the beginning of 2015, approaching a milestone birthday, everything seems to fall into place. For the first time in her life she starts the year with a vision board for the upcoming twelve months. Her intention is manifested on the wall: she would start writing about her life, kicking off with a Life Writing class in January.

With many unanswered questions Bettina travels to Germany in July 2015 to interview family and friends. She learns how her parents survived the Second World War as young children and how her Uncle Klaus branded her mother one day. She even finds out about a family secret that was hushed up for many years. When talking to a cousin of her father she discovers a new distant relative. Part two of the book gives an insight into Bettina’s family history, her childhood and teenage memories growing up in Germany and her family home.

Bettina reveals her journey from an uneducated background in a small German country town to the world of art, design, and writing in a big city on the other side of the world – taking some diversions along the way. She realises that she loves gathering with the creative community. It is her relationships with artists, designers, collectors, and writers that lift her spirits and make her feel good, understood, and appreciated. These are the people who encourage her to move forward, to try new things, to fail, if necessary, to get up again and keep going. Without writers and artists, the world would be less colourful and without memory.

Bettina’s curiosity to discover new continents and countries and to find out more about their culture and history was always a key driver for her to pack her bags and leave trusted ground. The selection of travel vignettes in part three of the memoir conjure some of the key images and impressions of trips she has taken and capture the significance of these experiences for the reader.

In part four of the memoir Bettina reflects on things she misses, homesickness and nostalgia, the power of yoga and meditation, and how the motif of the circle is a framework to trace her life’s journey. There seems to be a constant coming and going – a circular motion – when you decide to move abroad; happy moments when you make new friends; sad moments when they return to where they came from and you have to let them go; an extra that was not in the brochure when she booked her flight with no return.

Looking back on the first fifty years of her life, she finds it fascinating how things that happened to her determined her path in life as much as those that didn’t. Each of the four parts of her memoir opens with a letter to her mother – adding another emotional layer and taking the reader deeper into some important memories and events in her life.

Does her new life in Australia depend on a stroke of fate in 1998? Has everything in her life happened for a reason? What does it mean to belong to a place? And where does she belong being a citizen of two countries?

Australia is home, and Germany the country where she was born and spent the first forty-two years of her life. Her heart embraces both countries, and she loves them both. Following her heart, she “let her brush write what it would” and hopes to encourage others to never give up searching for their true passion in life.

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