I know, the year happened over a week ago but I just had no idea of how to write about it. Multiple times over the past year I have sat in wonder, I never saw myself living in Europe or a city of this size anywhere in the world. I never saw my life being lived out in the German language either. I had always heard that German was too difficult of a language to learn and use. Plus, where in Minnesota would I use it often enough to not lose it? Oh life, you’re never what I expect!
Berlin has changed me in many ways. I feel like I know myself better today than I did the day I flew out of Minneapolis. I am seeing strengths and weaknesses in myself I didn’t know I possessed, I am more culturally aware than I was before I came here, I used to externally process things but now I don’t have that option, or at least not in the same way I did before (oh, my poor husband). I am forced to sit back and think through the situation and why I am feeling the way that I am. It has been a great learning experience for me. I am growing and it is good, hard and sometimes painful, but worth each second of it.
There have been highs and lows in the last year, and there will be highs and lows of this one too! One of the main things I learned as I was processing life this year is to ask myself if whatever was happening was hard because of where I was or if it would have been hard no matter where we lived. There was a month where all three kids has some sort of sickness/ infection that was consuming my thoughts and our time. In talking with a co-worker I realized, this would have been hard in the U.S too, it wasn’t being here that made it hard. Yes, the medical language and not understanding how to mix my own antibiotics were challenges I wouldn’t have had in MN, but they were not what made it draining hard, they were little details that just were.
I asked the kids questions in the previous post, but my answers to those questions aren’t as fun. One of the frequent questions I get asked is: How are you settling in to Berlin? Better than expected. Please don’t read that as “Perfect!” because it isn’t. I mean what I say in better than expected. We expected hardships, pain, sadness, confusion, loneliness and we got them, but we still like living here. We have friends and relationships, and it is better than expected.
Do I miss home? Sure do! I miss family and friends most of course, the other things I miss change a lot. These lesser things I miss come and go; usually it is a place or a concept, like Target or being able to get a glass of tap water at a restaurant, or free refills on these hot thirsty days. A week ago it was hot so I’ve missed air conditioning and a personal vehicle. There is nothing like a 90 degree day packed into a train with all the other commuters and no ac. That will be a far thought from my mind come January though, so you see, it changes.
A highlight of my first year in Berlin was certainly the language. I am far from ready to stop taking classes, but I can hold conversations in okay German. It happened slowly and almost unnoticed for a while. It became a highlight when women I have talked to multiple times noticed and said, “We are actually having a conversation!”. Yes, yes we are and I am just as excited as they are, or perhaps even more.
We are a year in, it is surprising and scary. Where did the time go? It seems like we haven’t run through four seasons of life here, but we have. My wish for us is that we are better prepared for this next year, knowing the emotional and material needs that each season has. And that because we are more settled and able to speak a bit now that we will be able to be more present, enjoy the months of year two, and will end with even more stories to share.