Warning! This post will containt sap.
A lot of sap.
You have been warned.
Today I am going to talk about having an anchor. This is not the type of anchor that holds a ship in place….but it does hold a human soul from flying off into insanity.
What the hell am I talking about?
Cue the theme song!
Being an expat can be very lonely, being separated from friends, family, and familiar places can be hard. For Thorsten and I, we are going through this journey together as we live out in Uberlingen. I feel that it has made us stronger because we go through our own versions of homesickness together and we support each other when the other needs it.
You are probably wondering why would Thorsten feel homesick. He is German and still living in Germany so what is the big deal? Well, you need to realize that Europeans, in general, rarely move far from home. My cousin Rafa is from Sevilla but studied in Cordoba (which is only an hour or so away). You might as well have told his family that he lived in China because, to them, that’s the same distance.
So imagine what it is like for T. He has lived in the same village, in the same house, that has been owned by his family since the 1800s. He now has moved almost three hours away. Just because he lives close enough for weekend visits does not make his homesickness any less real.
Fortunately, we do make pretty regular visits to his village (mostly because he is still vice-president of the sports club and has a lot of obligations). So he is able to be with his friends as well as his family. I feel very welcome with his family; they are all very inclusive with me. However, my social circle has been reduced from my strong group (see Fellowship) to a village full of acquaintences. They are all kind and friendly to me. But there is a world of difference between casually running into each other at functions versus calling someone on the phone to see a movie, have dinner, hang out, or anything!
But this is where my second anchor comes in.
Though at this point, if you haven’t figured out who it is then you have haven’t been reading my blog very closely.
Nicola was the first to really reach out. Before the weekend would even begin, we were already texting each other and making plans. We don’t spend every waking moment of the weekend together but we still hang out whenever we can. It is a small thing but it makes a huge difference.
I think part of our bond is because she too is a sort of expat. Just like Thorsten, she has also moved away from home. But unlike Thorsten (who moved within the state of Baden-Württemberg), Nicola is from Bavaria. This is important to know because while both states share a border, a language, and similar recent history, they are still different. Both states have their own dialects, their own customs, even their own history. To put it in an American perspective: it would be like someone from Boston, Massachusetts moving to Nashville, Tennesse – same country, same language, BIG cultural difference.
So I think she recognized my needing a friend.
You don’t realize how much having a friend like that can make a difference.
I would like to tell you another story:
When my mom first came to this country, she didn’t have friends and my dad was always away on business. She had an aunt (and sister) in Connecticut and she had some acquaintences but not anyone she could truly call friend.
She met some latinos and began to create her new social circle. But there was one woman she met that left an impression.
Edith is this adorable little lady from Mexico who was also married to an American. When she met my mom, I was a month or so away from being born. They never exchanged phone numbers but something about my mom stuck with her.
After a time, Edith wondered about my mom. She knew that my parents lived close (the trailer park down the street, in fact). So she got into her car one day and drove around to find my mom.
My mom happened to be sitting on the porch that day with me (as I was about a month old) so when Edith found her, it was as if the hand the of fate guided her.
There was no air conditioning in the trailer so Edith brought us to her place to cool off. She then told my mom that she would watch me so that my mom could go and take a nap.
It was a small act of kindness even after three years of living in the states that made a huge difference. Since that day, my mom would go to Edith’s every Saturday to spend time together. I remember going with my mom to my Tia Edith’s. At the time, I didn’t understand why. I liked my Tia Edith but it was a lot of time that I had to learn to entertain myself while my mom spent time with her friend.
Now that I am in her shoes, I get it. I understand that need to hang out with that one friend, if only for a few hours.
This last Saturday, Nicola and I went to Rothenburg because I wanted to buy some gifts for my trip home and I asked her to come with.
You may remember Rothenburg from a post I wrote a while ago. Anyway, amidst our laughter and drinking and adventure having, I felt so grateful that she is the wife of one of T’s closest friends:
Anyway, I have been having a blast with these three people (oh yeah, even though Marcel is hardly mentioned in this post – he is also a frickin’ awesome human being). In our short time, we have had some interesting adventures and I can’t wait for the ones we have planned for the future.
I told you there would be a lot of sap.