I spend a lot of time in my home here in Germany. I work remotely from home so most days I have little or no reason to leave the house. I will live on sandwiches for days if it means I do not have to walk to the store in bad weather. I can make a simple soup out of most things in my cupboard and would most likely wait until I had more than one completely bare shelf before I would venture outside if it weren’t for my husband and my dog. They seem to prefer when there is food in the house and more substantial meals to eat.
When I am in my apartment I do very well. I know I am living in Germany, on the other side of the planet from most of my friends and family and basically everything familiar I grew up seeing and doing. When I am in the apartment I watch Netflix and can see the same TV shows I loved when I was living in the states and I can see them in English. When I am in my apartment there is a disconnect with my reality but then the day comes when I have to venture out and the feelings of isolation that come up can be crushing.
I walk down a street and see signs and graffiti, everything is in German or sometimes in English that isn’t quite right. I hear people speaking and it’s usually in German or Arabic or French or any number of other languages that are common here, on a rare occasion I will even hear American English. When I am faced with these things there is no hiding from my reality and the distance between me and things that are familiar becomes very real. I walk the streets calmly while inside I want to cry. Wail, about the things I miss, simple things. Just going to the movies with someone or meeting for lunch. Running into a friend while out shopping and going to have a coffee and sit and chat. Being in a shop and having a question and being able to ask it without having to wonder if the words I am using are correct or not, wondering if I am making sense or making myself appear foolish.
I have no colleagues I can sit and chat with, bonding over our workload or a collective hope we will get a raise this year. My dog, whom I love dearly, is even worse than me on the streets. A bundle of raw nerves that shakes and cowers at every sound as he tries desperately to keep watch for dangers from every angle. When he is with me, I tend to forget my own anxiety and focus on easing his. In a way, I guess this makes him a good therapy dog for me. Here there are no girlfriends, no friends in general. I was spending time with one of my teachers, I paid her for tutoring. She and her daughter came for dinner one night. I would say she is a friendly but I do not think she considers herself my friend, I do not see us to meeting for lunch and going on an impromptu shopping trip together.
Life here is difficult but it is also amazing. I love the culture, the art, the music, the diversity. I love the trains and seeing so many people on bicycles, even in the rain and snow. I love how important family and health is here. I love seeing my husband so engaged in his work; how happy he is when he gets noticed for his accomplishments at work. There are so many things to love here. I do not want to leave and yet there are days when being here is overwhelmingly depressing.
On those days, I intentionally seek the joyful things around me and focus my energy there. But I have found it is better to acknowledge the challenges then to deny them. When you try to ignore the struggle, it just seems to make it all seem that much bigger.
So, yes, life is difficult here on the other side of my world but it is oh so worth it!