Many people have asked what the hardest transition has been or what is really different here. Far and away the most challenging and exasperating part of this new life is not knowing how to speak, read, or understand the German language. It is a most vulnerable feeling to look at a sign and not know what it says. I never paid attention to food labels before, but I am now so grateful for a photograph of a tomato or kidney bean on the front of a can!
And when people speak to you (as it seems they do with frightening frequency here) they have an expectant look on their faces, almost as if they want you to answer them. It is hard not to feel like a total fool when you can't make out a single word of it.
I have a newfound admiration for my two-year-old niece Nova who is learning to speak English with great speed and enthusiasm. Oh to be free of inhibition and pride! But I am becoming humble as I realize that I have to speak German badly for a long time before I ever speak it properly!
Thank goodness for Frau Brueggemann, who patiently teaches us German in her home for four hours a week. She studied English in school for nine years and gained her fluency in English while in college in Great Britain. So, she speaks English with a British accent and in that dialect. Kind of funny for us Americans! I can only imagine how painful it is to hear us struggle through each sentence, but she is always encouraging and kind . I think we are lucky! She lives in the next village over, so we ride our bikes there for lessons on Tuesday and Friday mornings. She is keeping us busy with homework every other day of the week.
We have actually been fortunate that many people in Germany speak English. Since Aaron's company does work internationally, many of his colleagues are very competent and comfortable in English. One of his colleagues and his wife live in our neighborhood and have been quite friendly and welcoming. However, Maren does not speak English. I can't miss the irony that the one person who has reached out to me in friendship is someone with whom I can barely communicate! She does part-time day care so has free time and took me shopping last week in Flensburg. Tomorrow we have another trip planned! As difficult as it is and as much as I struggle, I can't say no to an offer of friendship. And hopefully, by the time I can speak with her she won't be exhausted by the effort it has taken!