Day 3 in Germany 10.1.15

I took the first day and a half to get settled in, meet the kids, and try and get over my jet lag. Everything was pretty low-key and nothing was expected of me, which was wonderful. Yesterday I began learning basic routines and details like the kitchen: where everything is kept and how things are stored. I also walked around a bit of the town with N and E and got my first glimpse of the layout. Today has been similar: I woke up with everyone and we brought L to kindergarten so I could see how to get there. This will be my job every morning. After dropping her off we walked around the town some more, got coffee and N showed me a few department stores and grocery. We also stopped by the market to get some fresh produce. I can’t wait to know my way around this place so I can stop by these places and take it all in. As we walked around, several people N knew stopped to talk, and I met them all. So many new names and faces! They have all known the past Au Pairs, and I am “the new one.” I know some basic German, enough at least to introduce myself etc., but in the moment all that seems to fly out the window and I just look like an idiot who can’t speak. It’s all good though, people are very friendly and understanding. Apparently I actually know more German on my first day than many other people, so I have that going for me at least. I do understand a fair amount, and so am able to follow a tiny bit of conversation even if I cannot contribute anything.

All of this is a lot to take in though. I’m still taken aback with the though that this will one day be like second nature to me. That one day I will know this place. That one day I will be able to speak the language. The weather is turning colder, and soon the market will close down for the winter, and won’t reopen until March. Funny thing is, I’ll be here in March. Surreal. The town is absolutely gorgeous. It’s quaint and homey, everything I’d expect a European town to be and much more. Nestled in the mountains, everything has that rustic storybook feel to it, which just makes it all the more unreal when I realize I live here now. I imagined how breathtaking it must be when the snow falls, and then I realize I will be here for that. Those are the moments where I’m both excited and overwhelmed at the same time. I’m so happy to be here! I am living a dream, and that in and of itself is so satisfying. Yet there’s also a bit of “holy crap what the heck did I just do?” mixed in it all when I realize that I’m in Bavaria for the next year: which means Fall, Winter, Christmas, New Years, Spring, Easter, Summer, and a billion other things. I get to find a Church to attend each week- on my own. I get to buy clothes and groceries like a normal person- in a foreign country. The reality of my future is actually impossible to comprehend, and it hurts my brain to even try. It’s not that this is outside my comfort zone, but rather this is what it is to push yourself so far outside of your normal routine that you become almost like a child again: like the world is new and everything is wonderful and you are very, very small.

I am a pretty private, reserved person when it comes to my personal life. N is not, and she also has this ability to break through to other people. In the first few days she had asked me everything from what my family was like to what kind of food I enjoyed; If I liked still or sparkling water, if I’d had sex, if I liked sushi. Had I done drugs, do I like kids. What kind of beer did I like, what kind of coffee, where had I travelled, and did I actually want to learn German. The depth of questions, the span of variety, and the constant bombardment often took me so much by surprise that I couldn’t even stop to think about whether or not I would even answer- and things came spilling out. She was not withholding her own information though either, and I know this woman better already than many people I’ve known for years back home. At first this is super weird. I’m uncomfortable with people knowing so much about me before I’ve had a chance to build trust. Yet there’s something very good despite how ridiculous it sounds. She knows a lot about me and I know a lot about her, and that removes a lot of formality and time “building trust.” And with me taking care of her kids, the reality is that time is not a luxury either of us could really afford. So I find myself jolted into a very open relationship with this family and it’s actually wonderful. Time will still pass- there will be much more to come, and there are many things neither of us knows about the other. Still: what the heck it’s only been a few days and I already feel at home because I’ve been exposed: it’s refreshingly very human.

Speaking of being with children and feeling like a child, yesterday was the feast of St. Therese of Liseux. I chose her as my confirmation saint because I was captivated by her desire to be little, to be a child, and to find comfort in the Father’s arms. This is a concept I revisited today as I found myself feeling quite childlike in this country. There is this element to trusting Him unconditionally, with an innocence that does not comprehend anything being denied you and a trust that knows He will make everything better. This is what I hope my whole year can reflect. I am disheartened by the darkness in the world and yet surrounded by the beauty of majestic mountains and and old city. I am brokenhearted and yet unable to doubt being loved since my heart is so full with blessings I do not deserve. I am overwhelmed, but with goodness, not duties. I cannot converse much and must listen instead: the more perfect to learn as a child and not as a self-conscious adult. Once again, I find myself not outside a comfort zone but rather removed from routine and living in the fresh air (literally) of newness and opportunity. I will be exhausted many days, I can already tell, from being with the kids and household chores, but that is normal. This is so much less than I have had to do in the past 8 years of my life through high school, NET, and college. It is providing me with a much-needed rest from the break-neck, desperate speed at which I functioned, and yet allows me to become a better person all around. I have time to learn a new language, become a better cook, read theology or philosophy, take walks in the the mountains, pray, and think. This is what makes a person whole, I believe. I also have time to sit and binge watch House of Cards or some show with my host mom, and drink beer each night while the kids play. Life is good, and as I’ve said before, I couldn’t have known the goodness waiting here and definitely didn’t plan it this way.

-Claire

These first few posts have been quite abstract… I attribute that to the overload of information and sensory intake I’m experiencing. The future hopefully holds less thought and more stories.

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