Anytime I have moved in the US, my first action is to drive around the area getting acclimated– finding the crafty stores, the yarn shops, the good grocery stores, and the garden shops. I’m usually focusing on unpacking and making my home the way I want it. I do a lot of running around and that making and fixing distracts me for the first month or so from missing my old routine or realizing that I don’t really know anyone yet.
But one of the most difficult things about moving abroad is that it can be a bit paralyzing. In the beginning finding your way can be hard. You can’t really ask a stranger for help, you can’t google and the GPS is less than helpful when you don’t know what to put in for an address. Obviously, my normal acclimating routine has taken a bit longer than I’m used to.
But slowly, connections are starting to form. About a week ago, I wasn’t in a rush to get home after school, so I walked with my Syrian friend to her sister’s house. I thought I would just say hello and meet her mom and then walk back to the train station, but they invited me in and we had tea. Then I realized that her sister and brother in law are in the same level of German learning as we are, so we practiced a little. Since, she can speak English, and they can speak some German, we did a lot of English, Arabic, German translation. Her entire family is so warm, curious and welcoming. An hour or so passed without noticing and they said, “You should stay for lunch.”
Thrilled to be invited and really excited to try Syrian food, I gladly accepted. The lunch was delicious and fun. Then after lunch I tried to leave and they said, “No, stay!” That afternoon we made plans for another day to walk to the city and shop. I ended up feeling like I had met new friends and I did not get home until 6pm.
Last week a few of us from school walked with our classmate from Thailand to the nearby Asian grocer. He showed me the ingredients for Tom Yum Gai and told me how to make it.
After school on another day we walked to the city and had lunch at a wonderful cafe. I got to introduce my friend to some Franconian food and we chatted about the differences and similarities in food and culture between Syria, the US and Germany.
One day this week I had lunch with a friend of Thorsten’s who has become my friend. She has a four year old daughter who I sometimes read with to practice my German. That day we met at the train station and walked to lunch, chatted for a few hours and then I had to run to the Standesamt (Germany Registration Office) to apply for my German Drivers License. (The application is in but it will be a month or two before I get the actual license).
Then another day, I took the train passed Forchheim to a city nearby and met another friend. She oriented me to the city and took me to a book store, a great yarn shop and then we had coffee and cake at the oldest cafe in the city. In every scenario we speak a mix of German and English, but without a problem or mostly even without being nervous I can order my own food now at restaurants.
Slowly, I’m finding the good places and special people. By learning, working and meeting friends, a life that I recognize is beginning to emerge. It looks a little more like my old life in a new place.
p.s. I think the fact that this week I found cheddar cheese and the other ingredients for a make shift Chipotle Burrito Bowl might really be helping with the acclimation.