After 2.5 months, life in Germany is really excellent . . . .
1. We are learning a second language!
Here is where we are so far: Wren is fluent. Really. She responds to anything that one says to her in German. Keogh understands 50% of what one says to him in German. He speaks a little German daily and with gusto. I understand 30% of what one says to me. I have hundreds of vocabulary words in my head. Jonathan is learning one new word per day.
2. I ride a bike everywhere.
This morning, in 24 degrees I rode to my German course. The quote about there being no bad weather, just bad clothes rang true. I was dressed right and the weather didn’t touch me. Indeed a woman feels mighty powerful after riding in the freezing sunshine for 15 minutes.
3. Bread, chocolate, and hot drinks.
I don’t know why but the baked goods and chocolate and hot drinks in this country are great. I think it’s a standard of excellence. The grocery store cannot have shitty bread because NO STORE has shitty bread. The lowest bar is probably the corner kiosk and even a roll with butter from there will work in a pinch. It only sucks because you pay as much for one roll in the kiosk as for five in a bakery.
4. Folks tend to take pride, responsibility and notice. But not too much.
The Germans I’ve come into contact with really care about what they are doing. My favorite example of this is my vegetable lady. I love her first because she only speaks German to me. I’m sure she does speak some English but she wants to help me with my German so she only speaks German to me. This is the sincerest form of respect. She cares enough to help me improve. The thing I love next about her is that she knows her veggies. Apples, leeks, figs . . . she is a human wikipedia of knowledge. She takes pride and responsibility for her professional world. And she works with me. She listens really well to me, asks me to repeat stuff, and then asks me about what I’m making based on what I’m buying. And she always notices the kids. Sometimes it’s just a greeting and a smile, but whenever one of them is cranky she notices. And she digs out some amazing piece of fruit and kindly gives it to them. What she doesn’t do is over do it. She doesn’t try to sell me extra stuff when I explain what I’m making. She doesn’t ALWAYS give a piece of fruit away. And when she’s done, she’s done. The stand closes at 7 PM during the week. And at 6:59 she is ready to shut it down. It’s intensity with boundaries. I like that.
My son has a teacher, Richard. His mom was British and his Dad is German. He didn’t speak a lick of German until he was 8 years old. He is Keogh’s mentor. And that is what I really like about him. I believe that learning how to participate in a mentoring relationship is a remarkable key to one’s success. And Richard is teaching Keogh about that kind of relationship.
If one can’t appreciate pace in this situation then one will never appreciate pace.
The family are all learning German at a different pace. Albeit Wren is notably and wildly out front in this area. Props to the little one!
Of course I have to pace myself when I’m riding everywhere. It’s just dumb to sleep for 15 extra minutes and then have to ride like my life depended on it.
And the general pace of life, even in this good sized city, is slower than I’ve ever experienced. Every single retail store is closed one day per week. Full time work is considered to be 38.5 hours. Work hours have a real end time. It’s generally fixed and respected. Having a meal with friends is a long, happy, uninterrupted exchange. Folks generally hang out for hours and cell conversations just aren’t done during these meetings. Indeed, few people walk and talk on a cell, or have the thing sitting out on their dinning table. I’ve even noticed that totally social or pointless cell conversations generally don’t happen in public places. Not even in line at the post office. It’s a different pace.
Young kids seem to be affecting the pace. They don’t seem to just be hanging on by a thread to the pace inflicted upon them by their caregivers. They are actually dictating the pace. In some ways it is very subtle and in others it is right up in your face. For example, at my language school the director nurses her 5 month old child at 11 AM every day. Her husband comes in with the baby, the class takes a break, and Katarina goes into an empty classroom to nurse for 10 minutes. The whole thing is about the child. And absolutely no one thinks this is unique or weird. Keogh’s kindergarten sent home a very direct outline of “how to pick up your child”. They didn’t ask for input from the parents, they didn’t put it up for vote, they simply told us what is best for the children. The children know what they need and somehow here in Germany I’m hearing it in a whole new way.
So here is what I’m thinking about. When everything in my world is changing, by design, circumstance, or other, I must pick my pace. I have to notice the pace and do something or do nothing. Slower, faster, the same, really slower, or one gear faster. Pace is really one of the things that really really matter. Notice, adjust. Notice, adjust. Notice, adjust . . . . forever.