Outsider Perspective

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If everyone were required to live for a time in a country where they don’t speak the language or know the culture, I wonder how that would change the world. There is something very humbling about being completely ignorant of your surroundings and how to navigate and negotiate to get your needs met. Other senses are triggered when you don’t understand the language being spoken…listening for tone and timber of voice, watching body language and facial expressions, observing interactions between the people around you, all clues used to help figure out what the heck is going on! Some people thrive in unfamiliar environments, but for those of us that don’t, the experience of being a foreigner, or in my case in Germany ein Auslander, can be extremely stressful. The relief that comes from the kindness and generosity of native strangers, or assimilated expats, cannot be overstated. Luckily, I have encountered many of them.  But most of all, at least for me, I feel much empathy for others that are in similar situations.

Living in the United States and specifically California, I frequently have known immigrants who are struggling in similar ways, many times even managing without the privileges that as an immigrant I enjoy, such as a safe and nice place to live, a formal education, financial security, etc. I like to think I have always been kind and willing to help a stranger to my land. I hope I have. This experience is teaching me how vulnerable one feels in such a situation, how important an empathic gesture can be.
More empathy in the world has to be a good thing.
Auf Wiedersehen

Growing Pains…

I want to preface this blog post by saying that I wrote it right after arriving in Germany following what was a treacherous (to me) move.  I was jet lagged and in pain.  The feelings were real, but even now, on day 7, things are looking brighter.  (Sleep and pain relief will do that. 🙂 )

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Day Two

I feel like I’m in a dream.  I can’t believe I have actually moved to Germany.  To say that I feel like a fish out of water would be an understatement.  I think it’s even more jarring because the move beat the crap out of me, physically and emotionally.  I have a bad back and chronic pain issues and had to push through all of that and tax my body to the max, every day for a week. I now feel like a heap of aching joints. It’s even hard to walk. For my friends and family that are familiar with The Spoon Theory,  I’ve used up reserve spoons through next Christmas.  The 11 hour flight with the dude in the seat in front of me, reclining down into my lap, didn’t help the situation.  OK, I see where this post is going.  It’s going to be a bitch session.  Sorry, that’s just where I’m at right now.  Of course, I’m happy and grateful to have the opportunity to experience a different culture and travel to many places I’ve always wanted to go, but right now on day 2, all I can see is that I am in a strange apartment with no internet, sitting on hard rental furniture, can’t take a shower because 2 of 2 towels we have are dirty and the washing machine takes 3 hours and the towels still aren’t dry.   And…….. all my stuff is on the ocean somewhere right now and won’t get here for approximately 2 months! Whaaaaa!  I want my bed!  Whaaaaa!

The best news I got the today was that my daughter is coming to visit us in September and my French Exchange daughter (she lived with us for a year in the US in 2014-2015) might be coming to visit in a few weeks.  I’m so excited to see them both.  I’m also looking forward to a visit this summer from our U.S. next door neighbor/friend. She is German and will be coming in July to visit family and we’ll be lucky enough to get a visit from her and her daughter too.
Trial and error has never been something I’ve been fond of.  It gives me a lot of anxiety.  I am a bit of a perfectionist and when I don’t know how to do even the most simple of tasks like how to separate the trash (it’s a thing  here-German Recycling Rules), get a cart at the grocery store, how to work the washing machine, etc, it stresses me out.  I’m not a big proponent of Artificial Intelligence, but I absolutely could go for a “Welcome to Karlsruhe, Germany” robot that would follow me around and explain everything and translate for me.  I’m sure that will be available at some time in the future.  You heard it here first.  😉
I’m hoping this first post will stand as a marker for me and something to look back on and chuckle about how I was a mess the first week and how everything is so much better now.  (This is one of those times I wish I was Samantha from Bewitched and could twitch my nose to travel through time).
I’ll end this entry with two wins for today.  1.  I found that condensed milk is a decent substitute for coffee creamer.  2.  I learned how to work the key to the front door of our building.  Yep, even that couldn’t be easy.  I’m a pro now though.  Yay me! 🙂
Bis später!