Monday, July 23, 2007

Caution: Long blog from my third day in Germany

If you have ever been in the Denver airport you know that although it is huge, it has nothing particularly spectacular to boast of. Sure, it has three different terminals and more ritzy stores than Oakway mall, but still it seems nothing out of the ordinary for an international airport. What made Denver airport amazing was it’s ability to make the most mundane, cliché and even annoying things sentimental to me. McDonald’s, where I haven’t eaten more than a dozen times in the last few years, found a tiny little soft spot where I could look at the glaring yellow arches and smile at American consumerism and inability to eat well. Then there was this poster with some East Asian monk on it which said something about having peace or making peace or something about peace, and I nearly burst into tears looking at it. To anyone who knows me well it is unthinkable that I would cry in a public place and far less a busy public place. I’m not entirely sure why these things seemed so representative of America to me, but knowing than my next plane ride would terminate in a foreign country made everything near to me dear to me.
At this point I have been in Germany for two entire days, and I am still attempting to get over jetlag. Trying to go to sleep during what used to be the middle of the day is very difficult to put it mildly. When I arrived on Wednesday I was exhausted from a long trip and had heard so much concentrated German that after a couple of hours of trying to speak to my host mother I was forced to tell her that I could understand no more German that night. Fortunately she speaks English wonderfully and was very gracious about how fast my head was spinning. I had never realized how isolating it is to not be around people who speak your native tongue. However, I do have several sources of comfort. For instance, when Sabine and I went to the grocery store today the radio was playing Phil Colins and I think perhaps James Blunt. I was also shocked to see Fructise shampoo by Garnier on the shelves as well as Head and Shoulders. I should have assumed that dandruff is universal, but frankly, it had never before occurred to me. And then there was Molly. Not in person, but for my birthday she told me that she would send my gift to Germany. I opened it yesterday, and there on my lap sat Mal, and Kaylee, and Inara, and Zoe, that is, the entire Firefly series. I haven’t opened it yet, but looking at it this evening it made me want to cry again. Good old laser-gun-shooting-cowboys-in-a-universe-that-doesn’t-yet-exist.
Don’t be misled: although I am clearly and naturally homesick, I am as optimistic as a pessimist like myself can be. My comprehension of German is improving by leaps and bounds and any misgivings I had previously about how much language I would pick up have been laid to rest. As the four year old that I will be taking care of told me earlier this evening: “you know only a little German, and I know only a little English; you will learn from me and I will learn from you.” Of course, I will also learn from the teacher that I will be giving my money to and I will also learn from the people on the street who don’t speak English, but it was a very cute sentiment. Yes, a year is a long time, and yes, things will be difficult for a while, but once I “get the hanger of things” (as my German teacher once said) and find a routine, things will be much better. Thank you all for you thoughts, encouragement, and prayers. It is almost one in the afternoon in Oregon so I must say goodnight! Guten Nacht.


Scarlettah said...

"I should have assumed that dandruff is universal, but frankly, it had never before occurred to me."

That's AWESOME, Val. Hehe. I totally know what you mean. Your little charge seems like s/he will take good care of you, and I am happy to hear that you are not feeling nervous about "getting the hanger of it."

Love and other mushy stuff,

Teal said...

i agree with 'lettah. the little kid seems pretty awesome so far.

i'm really proud of you, embarking on this great adventure....i send lots of "be strong val! woo!" sorts of thoughts your way...