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.