Scarlett Nicht Mehr

I’ve been here 2 years now. Technically, I left on the 4th of July, America’s Independence Day. I arrived on the 5th of July, the Totestag of Sparky’s father. In celebration and sorrow, I was born to Europe.

What have I done with my time here? What have I accomplished with my time? Friends and family back home ask all the time. Well, I learned to cook. I learned that the Polish do not like to be called Pollacks. I learned that while Schmuck is jewelry, Schmucker is not a jeweler, but rather a brand of beer. I learned how to navigate a grocery store, hardware store, pet store and dry cleaners, illiterate. I learned the fine art of diplomacy and mother-in-laws. I learned how to self-soothe because friends and family were more than a car-ride away. I learned that my family could be just fine without my daily interference. I learned that life does, indeed, go on without me.

I learned how to drive in the rain. I learned how to drive in the snow. I learned how to drive over 100mph and not die. I learned that einbahnstrasse was not a sign pointing towards the autobahn, but rather a one-way street. I learned how to dye my own hair and then learned that my natural color is just fine. I built a house. Well, I was on site for the building of our house. And thus, I learned to be patient and talk softly. I put together a household from scratch.

I learned to love German food. I learned to live without garlic in my Italian food. I was able to wean myself off of seafood, Mexican food, decent Chinese food, bagels and Starbucks Lattes and not lose a pound of flesh. I learned that my way of doing things is not the only way things can be done, confirming its just the only way they can be done correctly. I learned to appreciate the low cloud ceiling and forget the clear blue miles high San Francisco sky. Well, maybe not that.

And I learned how to let go of what I held most dear for the possibility of something greater.

But what does that all mean in the practical Deutsch scheme of things. Not a whole lot. See, in that time I did not learn Deutsch. I can’t go much farther here without it. I understand a great deal and I can communicate with my mother-in-law and drunkards just fine. Children under two understand me perfectly. I cannot, however, speak. In my head, I construct elaborate sentences, practicing what I want to say over and over, only to fall mute when the time to speak comes around. The patience and understanding of Markus’s friends and family has worn thin, rightly so.

In California, some demand that the Mexican immigrants speak English. Well, I’m the Mexican now. I’m in your country. I need to learn your language. I need to learn your way. If I’m to matriculate, integrate, assimilate, I must learn how to speak this language without spitting.

In San Francisco, I was smart, capable and independant. Without language, all that goes out the window along with self-esteem and confidence. Life without language is intimidating and it’s crippling. I don’t do well intimidated. And I do worse dependant on others. Only Scarlett can depend on the kindness of strangers gracefully. To that end, the next year will be devoted to learning Deutsch.

Gutenmorgen, meine Freunde. Ich bin im Begriff, Ihre Sprache zu schlachten.


12 thoughts on “Scarlett Nicht Mehr

  1. Nice post, Jen. I arrived her for good on July 7, 1990. 15 years. Ugh.

    Way to go on the learning German thing! You’ll have so much more self confidence when you get a firm grasp of it. The thing is to go to classes regularily, do your homework and stick with it. It becomes second nature after a while.

  2. I have been here over 10 years and my German is pretty bad. It wasn’t that long ago I was still at the ‘I can order beer & Pizza’ stage. I must admit I only speak German if I really have to. I just start speaking English, but in a German way – you know loud and fast, and I usually get a reply in English…..most of the time anyway.
    On the flip side doing a course is good. I tried for a while but the grammar did my head in, and I guess I’m just probably lazy 🙂

  3. Thanks…as if I don’t have enough on my mind you throw German in there…guess it’s time for me to commit too because I completely understand, from experience, every word of this post. It is crippling and since I’m still alive, I need to get out of my comfort zone too. Thanks for the kick.

  4. Jen will soon become one of our tribe. We will definitely assimilate her.
    She will visit you in the US with some of our snakes and spiders in her luggage… *GROOOAAARRR*

  5. Haddock: Its so true. In German conversations, they just get louder and louder if I attempt to interject before they’re done speaking. Loud and fast.
    Does Juniorette speak Deutsch?

  6. You seem brilliant and quick and I don’t doubt that you’ll pick it up in record time once you put your mind to it… the only thing I can say in German is: I have sauerkraut in my pants, but then again, I’ve never been immersed.
    Good luck!

  7. sauerkraut in your hosen? How did it get there? 🙂

    I’m not so brilliant with german. thanks gun girl, but this language is daunting.

  8. Unfortunately you will never truly speak the language due to you lack of a soft palette. You will never get the german rrrrr.

  9. I’ve read through this entry and the one about the poopie eggs and I sat here thinking- my god, I could have totally said those things.

    I arrived here in Germany a little over a year ago and even though for the most part I feel comfortable, I still remember the adjustment period.

    My first trip to Aldi with my fiancee ended up being a huge embarassment. I didn’t realise we had to self-bag and I stood there as the cashier pushed things quickly into the cart. I was shocked and then flustered.

    I think I said “what the hell is she doing to our stuff Christian??? Tell her to stop that and put them in bags.”

    Ah I’ve learned so much. lol

    I’ll be reading you!

  10. Belinda: Oh my god, i wish i was there. that’s so funny. And those ALDI ladies mean business.

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