On the heels of my post about the reticence of people in northern Germany, I have to point out again that the stereotype does not fit everyone. We have received much help and many kind gestures in our time here. And I am so incredibly grateful for my friend Maren.
I met Maren the day after I arrived in Germany, as part of a group who went to a festival. She and her husband (Aaron's colleague) came over the next week with a bottle of champagne as a house-warming gift. Both were really friendly. Jan speaks perfect English but Maren speaks almost none. She offered to take me shopping to look for lights and curtains and mirrors for our house. I was miserable and so stressed the whole time because she was speaking to me and I could not understand one word of it. She persisted in befriending me and we shopped almost every week last summer. In the process I learned my way around the area. I had my birthday after just two weeks of living here and met the day with mixed feelings. Maren and Jan showed up that evening, with gift in hand, to celebrate with me.
Maren invited us over for dinner many times and she was patient when Jan, Aaron and I talked rapidly in English though she could not follow the conversation. They included us in weekend outings and pointed out fun things for us to do on our own. Through all these difficult months when I have been so homesick for my friends she has stopped by to check on me, offered all kinds of practical help and always been quick to smile and laugh. As I cobble together terrible German in hopes of communicating, she helps me with words and listens closely. She speaks slowly, uses easy words and watches my face for understanding. In all this time when I had so little to offer and needed so much, she has been a friend. Sometimes all it takes is one person to make all the difference in the world. And even though I don't have the words to tell her how much that means, I hope she knows.