Sunday, April 16, 2006

Die Familie

After my brief rest, I was invited outside for dinner. It was summer, and the weather was amazing. I had stepped onto the plane in Arizona's 110 degree heat, stepped off into London's oppressive humidity, and stepped off in a cool German evening. At the table was my new family: my two older sisters and their boyfriends, and two older brothers.

To an American, it seemed a very unusual dinner. It consisted of soft pretzels, bread, various cheeses, salad, jam, butter, deli-type meats, and yes, sausages. I had heard of these European style dinners in my German classes, but actually sitting down at one was kind of surprising. As time went by, I really begin to enjoy the richness and variety of these meals, and I rather miss them these days. That first day though, I don't think I ate very much, and I know for certain I didn't talk very much.

Looking back on it, I'm actually quite amazed that I followed what was going on at all. I'd had three years of German in high school, but that had nowhere near prepared me for a table full of Germans wanting to know how my flight was. During those first few weeks and months I spoke quite a bit of English, mostly with my host mother. Had I been more assertive, I would have stopped her, since it was detrimental to my progress with German, but in my stead, my closest host brother, Daniel was there to do it for me.

I remember that first day, after dinner, my eldest sister, her boyfriend, Daniel and I went to the cellar to play pool. "Billiard spielen" (to play billiards\pool) was part of my vocabulary from German class, so that part was easy. Calling my shot when I won the first game was a little clumsy, but it worked. Understanding Daniel's gallant attempt to explain 9 Ball to me, without using a word of English, was impossible. Still, I progressed rather quickly was able to carry on most of my conversations in awkward, slow, incorrect German within a month or so.

Beyond my first dinner and playing pool, my first week or two in Germany is sort of blurry for me. When I tell people this, they don't quite get it right away, but let me put this into perspective. You're in a new country, whose language you don't really speak. You're living with entirely different people, whom you don't know. You know that school starts in a week, and there is a flurry of activity going on to get you ready for that (more on school next time.) And on top of that, jet lag has you waking up at 4 and getting tired at 8. I think you'd be a little confused. Still, by the time school started, I'd adapted fairly well and was ready to get into school and make new friends with my class. If only they'd felt the same way…