The Adventure Ahead

sarasota As I dreamed of the adventure ahead of me, I saw a white beach with me on it, absorbing the heat of the sun. The sun’s rays burned out the last of the infection following me these last weeks, taking the cough and ear pain with it. My Alida, the only kid able to join me, played in the sticky sand. As I lazily looked over at her, she grinned as she caught my eye, basking in the sun and knowledge she has mama all to herself.

A dream like that is feasible, especially when flying to Florida.

Last Friday our three-week adventure to the States began, unfortunately a day later than planned because of the German union’s strike. Our flight on Thursday was cancelled, putting off my dream another day.

 

Flying to the States is always exciting, but has become a bit strange for me. Years ago on a trip “home” to the States, I went to lunch with the women in my family. It was a typical luncheon place with options for various combinations of sandwiches and soups and salads. No big deal. But for this American girl who had spent already several years outside the country, it was. I stood overwhelmed in front of all those choices with no idea where to begin. Do I choose a sandwich first – but which one? How could I possibly choose among all those possibilities? Should I order a soup to go along with it? What size beverage should I get? Everyone is walking away with empty cups. Where do they get their drinks?

Luckily my sister-in-law recognized my distress (before the lump in my throat developed into something more) and gently pulled me in the right direction. Without making a show of it, she quietly told me what she was getting and made a suggestion of what I might enjoy. She then pointed down a hallway and said, “Drinks are there.”

I’m not sure she knows how much she helped me that day, but she saved me from making a fool of myself and having a breakdown right then and there. The breakdown came later, when I was alone with my German husband in the room that used to be mine. It came, but not just because I was overwhelmed in that particular situation, but because I knew in that moment I no longer belonged. I had come home to a place that no longer brought comfort and ease like a home should.

That whole trip was awful. It seemed in every situation I felt misunderstood or awkward or at a loss for what “normal” Americans would do. The years abroad had changed me into a different kind of American citizen, one whose home is no longer “at home” in the States.

It was a milestone, that defining moment when I became wiser and sadder simultaneously: wiser because I no longer come to the States expecting to belong and sadder because of that loss. And yet it has changed me for the good. Without the weight of that expectation to belong, I can be the oddball out and yet find joy in the times I suddenly find ease and comfort in being an American “at home”.

 

Okay, so my dream has not yet quite come into fruition. Saturday a thunderstorm brought rain in buckets. I could only laugh at the irony of the beautiful spring weather in Germany we had traded in. Sunday afternoon we spent a few hours on the beach even with the cold wind, determined like all the other spring breakers covering the beach to make our Florida time worthwhile.

We’re still at the edge of our adventure, just beginning to watch it take shape. I can’t wait to see all it brings with it – everything strange and comforting.

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About doralynelle

A would-be writer, stay-at-home mother of three, I find joy in the smallest things, love to laugh and can be super grumpy. Reading, writing, yoga and running are my favorite free-time activites, although enjoying a nice red wine is pretty high on the list too. Living in Germany as an American gives me lots to think about and certaintly to write about.
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4 Responses to The Adventure Ahead

  1. Jolene says:

    I remember my anthropology professor at MU telling us that one of the main goals of anthropology was to take on the bird’s eye perspective, being able to view one’s own culture through the lenses of another. I think we expats get to do that, but with a twist. “Home” continues to evolve/change while we are gone. And when we only get back every few years, it’s like a fast forwarded movie. It’s amazing how different things are every time I go. Even the language usage changes with new vocabulary and “it” words. I am glad to still feel very rooted in Pennsylvania, in my biological as well as my Mennonite church family. Neither has remained static, but we are tuned into a frequency where we understand each other and genuinely care about what is going on in each others’ lives. I am very thankful for the community, time, and place that I was born into. They’ve helped form me into the person I am today. Okay, so I just got done reading Shirley Showalter Hershey’s autobiography, “Blush”, and have been thinking alot about the ideas of heritage, identity, formation, etc. lately. I hope you have a good visit. Say hello to your parents for me!

  2. Luci says:

    Dearest Dora,
    Once again you have put down in words, with your beautiful way of writing and expressing yourself, the same experiences that I have had. I don’t recall when it was, however, I remember having the same “food court” experience, feeling absolutely overwhelmed. Also things like being able to turn right at a red light irritated me…. Yes, the feeling of insecurity at “home” didn’t feel good nor right. But like Jolene wrote, neither this nor that “home” has remained static. So it is the people who make both places ones of joy and security (“Geborgenheit”).
    Enjoy your adventure and give your parents hugs from me!

  3. Pingback: Drawn to the Road | In This Moment

  4. Charlotte says:

    Hello again, Dora! It’s been awhile, but as I sit waiting for participants to join my English webinar, I can do some reading. What a delight to follow your experiences – many of which I can relate to oh.so.well. I was just at ‘home’ in October after not getting back for more than a year. What I experienced was more confusion in the mega-grocerystore while looking for organic products. They are a bit more visible in the German shops. 😉 I would agonize over selections because I also wanted to be thrifty and get the best bargain for my dollar – and I do that with my Euro here, too! I wanted to make wise choices, informed choices, and it was just too much. Overwhelming.

    This trip was for the purpose of celebrating my parents’ milestone wedding anniversary, so there was a different feel to it. There was an added excitement and thankfulness for this special day with the whole family together. But what I noticed this time was less ‘How are things in Germany? Tell me about what’s going on there.’ I had less conversations about me. I felt like I didn’t get to tell all of my stories or help people connect with what is ‘home’ and ‘normal’ for me. Funny, I haven’t noticed this so much in previous years . . . I felt disappointed and unfulfilled, I guess. I listened to everyone else tell their stories. I love to hear about what people are experiencing. I just hoped that people would want to hear mine, too.

    What might things be like after I’ve been here 20+ years? (This year marks 15!)

    Well, that’s a bit of what I think and feel. It’s nice to have someone who can understand me. Thanks, Dora!

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