Advent 2, St. Nicholas Day and working in a shop (big milestone living here)

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. Advent 2. The Sunday where we light the second candle, the candle of Peace. Oh Lord, could we use some peace these days, right? It seems as though we are having to make decisions and are stressed around every corner. It is exhausting and yet studies show that most people are not sleeping well right now. The pandemic has affected how we rest and how we process our world as we try to sleep. The National Geographic reported that people are dreaming more but their dreams are about an invisible enemy or other ways we process an unseen pandemic. At the same time, we aren’t doing all the things that accumulate different experience so we are processing more of our past in our dreams. We are working it all out for better or for worse. Perhaps the Great Pause is allowing us to better integrate ourselves in some grand way as well. But for Advent 2, we take a moment to prepare our waiting space and cultivate Peace. Peace as in stillness, an end of conflict and peace as in wholeness, shalom. Our whole bodies yearn for alignment and peace. Today John cries out for preparation, for the path before us to appear, and for Jesus to come. We prepare for peace and God incarnate.

So go ahead and light your second candle for peace and take a moment. Germany is actually really great about reminding us of Advent 2. There are Advent 2 specials and shout outs. For an unchurched country, the Advent season brings out traditions that harken back to a time of preparation.

Today is also, in German tradition and a few other countries in the world, St. Nicholas day. Kids here get their boots ready and clean and set them outside of the door. If they have been good, St. Nicholas comes and fills them with candy, oranges and small gifts….much like how I treat stockings in the US. I do think its a little unfair though if you have larger feet, you get more treats! My friend, Kathrin, talks about as a child stealing her dad’s boot so that she might get more from St. Nick when she set it outside. Another friend posted a pic of her kiddo cleaning her boot, ready for St. Nick to appear this morning. It is always on Dec. 6th here although I love that Advent 2 is St. Nicholas Day today as well. We will take all of the joy we can get! Maybe I will eat a little extra sweet today to celebrate. For the first time, I made a cheesecake this morning with graham cracker crust. Graham crackers don’t exist here and so my chosen sister, April sent me a wonderful care package with Wheat Thins, Graham crackers and candy corn a couple of weeks ago. I ate the Wheat Thins while carrying them around for a few days like a safety blanket. I indulged in eating Graham crackers last week and they never tasted so good (it is weird the things you yearn for when you live far from home and can’t return any time soon). There are three plastic packages of crackers so I crushed up the second package for my experiment. The third…who knows. Maybe I will find frosting or marshmallows to indulge in the third pack.

And yesterday, while it might be insignificant to some, I hit a huge milestone in my life here….I worked in a shop for my friends all day yesterday. Here is why this is so huge. I moved here 2.5 years ago without hardly any knowledge of German. I took one night class at the local community college one night a week in Portland before I moved. I barely knew “My name is…” I knew nothing. When I moved here, I realized quickly that I should want to learn the language. I moved to a country that speaks German primarily, and even though I could survive with just English (many do for many years) I knew I couldn’t thrive here without it or feel as though I was even trying to integrate. So I jumped in with two feet. I took intensives…every day for four hours a day for many weeks. The classes go from A1.1, A1.2 to A2.1, A2.2 and so on. I completed through B2.1. I jumped in at A1.2 so 5 intensives later I started to try it out in the real world. At this level I should be able to move easily in German here and there. Not fluent but proficient.

It was shaky and I am not usually correct all the way but after nannying in German and taking these classes and trying my best…I can chit chat, get some jokes, order things, talk to small children (they still correct me and that’s good…as they should), understand most of what is spoken to me, etc. And after yesterday I COULD WORK IN A SHOP ALL DAY. Huge!

Now, here are some things I have realized…masks make this exponentially harder. I am slightly hard of hearing which means I didn’t realize how much I rely on reading lips and facial expressions until a mask was covering them both. But I have also realized that people are mostly patient and kind especially when coming into a shop they want to come into. Worst case is that I can switch to English and we have a Deutsch/English mixed combo. I have also realized I now need to brush up on some shop vocab…for next week because I have been asked back…yes! And final realization, I had a blast doing it….even with precautions and distance and masks.

Here’s to the weekend as we enter the next week hopefully with more peace, goodies and accomplishments.

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