Thursday was a long but kind of amazing day because of a number of reasons that I will get into. My day started as it has for the last couple of days this past week. I got up bright and early and studied German for a few hours before heading off to school. I am in language school for a month, Monday-Thursday for 2.5 hours each day. I gave some thoughts about this the other day.
Ana met me for lunch after school and then we walked to Refugio Café where I volunteer a couple of times a week these days as a barista. You all have heard me talk about this as well. It was a big day and I didn’t know it until I got there. For the first time, I was the only person on the shift AND there was an event that day. Double whammy! AND after four days of language school…phew!
After Refugio, I packed up all my stuff and headed on public transit to another part of the city where I am feeding and cuddling kitties each day for some friends while they are on vacay, about 12ish days. It takes about 40 minutes to get there from our place and about 40 minutes to get home…including walking, a tram and two different U Bahn trains.
I walked from the U Bahn to our place at 8:30ish that evening after leaving the house at 10am and being up for much longer. I crawled onto the couch and Ana and I stayed up to check in and chat with wine in hand.
On Thursday many things happened in the life of this expat to make me think…
- Increasingly, I get to reflect on what it means to be the only US American in the room. I don’t know that I have ever had this experience in my life to this extent. And most of the time it doesn’t really hit me but for some reason on Thursday it hit me over and over again, especially after my experience on Wednesday night (which I wrote about on Thursday). At school, I was with a German, four Brits and a Spaniard so when the questions came about how something was interpreted in English I kept hearing, “well, Americans say….but we say….” It was interesting to reflect on how my reactions happened. There was only one time when I got a little defensive….when Jerry Springer was used as , “I heard Americans say..” “Oh please, don’t compare all Americans to Jerry Springer,” I just had to exclaim. When Ana and I walked into Refugio, I was greeted with a warm hug from my friend Eyad, a refugee from Syria. Throughout my shift, I got to connect/check in with my new friends Valentina from Spain, Beshar from Syria, Yasmin from Eritrea, Anne from Berlin, Fridjov from Germany, etc. I found myself realizing that I hadn’t connected with another US person at all so far. And what a gift this can be! I get to be the one who tries my apprehensive German and apologize profusely for not understanding. So much grace in the span of a short amount of time.
- My Thursday brain woke up tired and not holding onto German words. I got to class a few minutes before and I was the only one in the room. When the instructor arrived, I confided in her that I was tired and not on top of things. She said she felt the same as she poured coffee beside her mug that morning. As students came in, we all agreed. Her response? “It’s ok, we are all learning.” It was my first shift alone at Refugio and still learning the machine so as I made lattes and cappuccinos and flat whites for people as they came in, I kept say, “I’m so sorry! I am still learning!’ And every. single. person replied, “Aren’t we all still learning?”
3. When I came home and was chatting with Ana I looked up to her and said, “how did I get so busy today?” She just chuckled and said, “I think everywhere you go you will find people and things to do and will become busy.” This has really sent me into a space of thinking about time. How do we use it? For me, it has been really amazing to realize that I can utilize my time in this way to grow in so many ways. These are really hard things to do and yet I have the space to do them. I also don’t want to just fill time to fill time right now. The busyness I experienced on Thursday was different. Right now I have the luxury and blessing of not having to work for money (although money soon would be a good thing) but for now I have the space. I got to chill on Friday after a very full day on Thursday…what a gift! Time has changed for me a bit lately. Even in the midst of being a full day, I stopped outside of the tram to hear the musician play amazing music at Alexanderplatz and I took pics of art that I noticed. I still took time to cuddle kitties and talk with my Syrian friends about how they are doing. I got to take time to have lunch with my love and walk intentionally from place to place. As I got off the tram on the way home, I bumped into a camino friend who lives in my neighborhood and we talked until she had to go on the tram. Time gets to be different for us if we want it to. Busyness used to equal productivity for me and it just can’t anymore.
And what keeps coming back to me over and over and over again is this grace offered to me as I learn. Over and over people keep responding to me, “aren’t we all learning?” This has theological implications for us as well as we search for new life. We are all on this journey of learning and the grace offered is even more precious because of it. In the hard and the easy things, this is part of the whole experience. Our never ending journey of learning and exploring. This is the grace of being in a place that isn’t “ours.” The unfamiliar generates this kind of growth and grace even though hard and challenging.