Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016: A Year in Review

Happy New Year from Berlin!  We hope you were surrounded with people you love as you rung in 2017! We rung in the new year at a bar with about ten other people.  The night started with us and the bar tenders being the only people at the bar and ended with a few extras who filtered in throughout the evening in preparation for the festivities.  Right before midnight, the bar tenders poured champagne and we all ran outside right to watch LITERALLY every person on the block set off fireworks.  We got a full fireworks display without the crowds! It was exciting, low key, and perfect.

I think lots of people were happy to see 2016 go, but we had a great year and I'm kind of sad to see it go.  It was quite a year, not only for us Hogans, but for people around the world.  Right now, social media seems to be dwelling on the fact that so many great celebrities have left us (RIP Prince, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali and so many more) and all of the tragic events that took place.  When I think of 2016 on a global scale, it's really easy for me to think of the craziness that was our presidential election, the violence that took place around the world, or a plethora of other negative things, but there were a lot of great things that happened around the world.  In order to end the year on a good note, here are a few fun facts about 2016.

  • The Global Terrorism Index 2016 reported that the number of annual worldwide deaths from terrorism declined by 10%.  
  • Giant pandas were removed from the endangered species list! They once were the poster animal for endangered species. 
  • Leo FINALLY won an Oscar!  (insert all the praise hand emojis!)
  • Thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge and all of the extra funding, they found the gene responsible for ALS.  All because people agreed to get wet. 
  • Several women of color were elected to prominent positions on election night
  • The Olympics! So much great sportsmanship and hard work from athletes all around the world, including a refugee team!
  • The unemployment rate according to the Department of Labor is at 4.6%.  When President Obama took office, it was at 7.8%. 
  • And last but not least, Hamilton. Enough said. 

For the Izmir/Berlin Hogans, we've had quite the year also.  Obviously, my evacuation from Turkey and the subsequent move a few months later consumed the majority of the first half of the year, but there were also plenty of fun and exciting things that took place as well.  Plus, in the second half of the year, we settled into our new home, found out we were adding to the Hogan Household and had lots and lots of visitors. Despite a crazy and tumultuous (at times) year, we've had a blast.  Here's a look at our top 16 memories of 2016 in no specific order.

1. The Coup and the Evacuation
Alright, maybe not a highlight for everyone, but hear me out. People always ask me if I'm sad not to be in Turkey or if I wish I could go back.  There are tons of things we loved about Turkey, from the people to the pottery to the beautiful landscape. When we first arrived, there were a few places near the Syrian border that were off limits, but for the most part, we were able to travel and explore the country as we pleased.  As time progressed, the places that were off limits expanded and our ability to travel within the country was less and less.  By the time that 2016 came, we were only allowed to travel within the city limits of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.  While I was excited for the new year, I was dreading our time spent in Turkey because we were becoming so home bound.   When the evacuation and move came, we experienced a newfound freedom that we hadn't had in many months. So, while the evacuation and the coup weren't exactly highlights, we appreciate the freedom that we've regained since then.  We would love to return to Turkey, but to the Turkey that we knew and loved when we first arrived. 

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Plus, I met great friends due to the evacuation! We were all kicked out of Turkey together and enjoyed a couple of weeks together at Ramstein. 

2. Reuniting in Split
The evacuation resulted in about three months apart, but luckily we were able to see each other throughout the three months.  We spent about six weeks apart at one point and reunited in Split, Croatia.  Split was beautiful and experiencing it together was the cherry on top. 

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3. Submarine Ball in Naples and Italy Travels
We got to travel to Naples (the home of the pizza!) and attend the Naval Submarine Birthday Ball, which was a blast! We then continued our travels and got to experience the Amalfi Coast, which is just as pretty as the pictures look. 

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4.  Baby Maximus!
Obviously this is one of the biggest highlights of our year.  In August we found out we were expecting and in October, we got to share the news with the rest of the world! We had lots of fun telling our friends and family and we are so thankful that this has been a relatively uneventful pregnancy.  It's flown by and I can't believe we'll be meeting Baby Maximus in 16 weeks!

5.  Wine Tasting in Izmir

We found some great wineries outside of the city and enjoyed wine tasting on the weekends.  Our favorite was probably the day before I left! We went with our new friends and enjoyed pizza and wine with a great view. 

6.  Our Month Long Winter Break Trip

We took advantage of Mike's month off in February and traveled the entire month.  Milan and Venice to Israel to Barcelona to Morocco to Rome all in one month.  It was a whirlwind, but a blast!

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Tel Aviv

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7. So many visitors!!

From Karen's month long visit to our week with my family where we got to tell them about 
visitors and many others, we've had tons of fun with our visitors in both Turkey and Berlin!

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8. All the Travel! 

How do we choose one trip? From skiing in the Alps to exploring Slovenia and Romania, it's impossible to choose our favorite trip.  We've had a year of exploration!

9.  Ben's graduation and Sarah going home/Mike going to the Euro Cup

All happened at the same time, so I guess they belong in one grouping.  I had a much needed month at home while Mike got to go wind surfing in Izmir and travel to France for the Euro Cup.

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10.  Traveling to London for Kelly and Sean's Wedding

We had so much fun seeing Mike's family in London and celebrating Kelly and Sean's (first!) wedding.  We're excited for this summer when all three of us return for the big party!

Our Intimate London Wedding - ceremony at Lambeth Register Office

11.  Berlin Apartment

After living in DC for a year, we were thrilled that our Turkish apartment had more than a drawer and a half in the kitchen.  Basically, anything bigger than a closet would have sufficed.  We soon realized that it had some quirks of it's own (crooked closets and a leaky toilet to name a few), but we loved it.  That being said, our Berlin apartment is definitely an upgrade and we love it! We are going to have a hard time going back to the States where we won't have things like heated floors and a sunrise AND sunset balcony.  It's a rough life we live.  I know. :D 

12.  Dog sledding 

By far one of the coolest experiences we've ever had.  The scenery was beautiful and the dogs were friendly.  It was the perfect winter vacation that made us feel like we were truly in the North Pole.

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13. Bear Sanctuary

Our travels brought us all over Europe and we had lots of cool experiences, but the bear sanctuary was such a hidden gem that we absolutely LOVED! I thought we would go and see maybe one bear in a small cage, but instead, we saw over 20 snow covered bears roaming around huge enclosures.  The bear sanctuary does so much to help rescue these bears and provide them a great life.
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14. Audiobooks

This wasn't an experience or event, but we really got into audiobooks this year and it changed the way we do road trips.  We've done almost ten of them and they make the long drives so much more entertaining.  We've learned that the narrator makes a HUGE difference in how much you like the book. I think our favorite was Boys on the Boat, but  almost all of them have been worthwhile.  

15. Ladies Trip/Malta

I had the chance to go on the Olmsted Ladies Trip this year and it was one of the most fun weekends I've had in a while! There were so many funny moments, lots of friends and TONS of wine.  What more could I ask for?  While I was hanging out in Split with the ladies, Mike was in Malta diving.  He still talks about how great of a weekend it was and is ALWAYS trying to find a way back to Malta. 

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16.  Fruhlingsfest in Munich

Think of it as spring Oktoberfest.   A little more low-key and we were experienced this time. We knew what to expect and were surrounded by good friends. These beer festivals are so much fun, even for non beer drinkers.  There is music, food and tons of good people watching. I definitely recommend it to anyone planning a European adventure!
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I wouldn't say 2016 was perfect, but we had a lot of fun and there were so many great things to come from it. We've got a lot in store for 2017, with a few last travels, Baby Maximus' arrival and our move back to the United States.  Here's to a year of big changes and big love!

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