The Persistence of Living Here


Yesterday I got to go back to the pottery studio where I took the wheel class to learn about glazing and glazed my pieces. I had been in Serbia for the glazing class with my other classmates.  As the owner of the studio said, “well, I guess consider it a lesson in patience.” We all had a good chuckle about that because pottery seems to be all about experimentation and patience.

When I walked in, I was excited to see my pieces after waiting over a month to get to this point.  I also looked around to see that I got to meet 8 or so other new potters for this class. We had all made our way to this glazing place from a number of different paths…full wheel, handbuilding, one day class, and molds.  We all had these pieces that highlighted our burgeoning style and what we had attempted to create.  We were ready to glaze…pondering colors and combinations, ways we could put color on our piece without overdoing it and for some of us (I raise my hand enthusiastically) this is a grounds for seeing what we can do with this material (if you are an enneagram person, yes I am a 7 through and through).


We learned about how to glaze and paint and dip.  It was really amazing to see what everyone had made and where they started to lean in terms of color palate.  As typical me, I started to chit chat with people around me as I was deciding what to do with my pieces.  I started to ask people how they had gotten to Berlin and why Berlin.  People started chit chatting back (most of the group was American so not surprising).  After a bit of time, someone asked me how my German was coming along.  I responded that it was coming along.  I have finished through B1.2 and feel as though I can navigate simple conversations in the city, order for myself and ask questions here and there.  I chuckled as I talked about an incident recently where I had a whole conversation with someone in the park in German and turned to Ana and said, “Holy Sh*t! I think I speak German now!” It just happened so fast.  So weird to hear German just come out of my mouth.

After a bit of time talking about language, the conversation went into what is expected in these kinds of convos with a bunch of native English speakers. We started to talk about how hard it is to actually get people to speak German with us in Berlin. So often, if there is a hint of hesitation in my German or my US accent comes out too much, the conversation immediately switches to English in the city. And again someone reminded us that if we were just persistent in our German and didn’t switch to English with the person we are interacting with, it would get to German. This has been totally true in my experience. If I begin the interaction in German, not English, and am persistent in my German speaking want, we will fumble through the conversation in German.

It struck me again as we were having this conversation how much persistence is needed in daily life to live in a foreign country.

Persistence in learning a language and then persistence in using it.  Persistence in myself to use it.  Learning German or any other language in my late thirties is HARD!

Persistence in learning day to day skills in how things are done here.


  • in learning where things are and how to get to them.
  • in shopping in the grocery store, reading labels and figuring out well known and loved recipes that may look different here.
  • in finding things to make the day to day feel like it is who I am now.
  •  in spending time with myself to see what carries into this life and what is different.
  • in making new friends and finding community.
  • in starting something new when the culture around validates bailing last minute and being skeptical of new things.
  •  in living with homesickness on a daily basis, knowing that I am not done here yet.
  • in constantly fighting off the urge to crumble when people don’t understand that I am not on a perpetual vacation. Being on a limited visa is a weird reality and while there are some benefits in my current life, I do miss working and associating value to my work, a value that reflects me.
  • in changing the perception of work…I work, I don’t get paid but I am defining work differently now and miss what I did before.
  • in knowing and feeling as though I am missing out in a different world, the world I left, and still being confident that this was the right choice for me and strong relationships with friends and family will last.
  • in constantly being reminded of my foreigner status and not taking it personally all of the time.
  • in navigating a world so different from my own that sometimes I feel crowded by how many people are around me at all times in this city.

So much persistence every day. No wonder every once in a while I am exhausted.

What would you add?

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