How To:

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Exercise in the winter
Tell yourself you will go for a bike ride once it stops raining. Bundle up in coat, scarf, hat and mittens. Start sweating profusely ten seconds into your ride, but then freeze when you remove a layer. Peddle until your face is red and your lips have the consistency of sandpaper. Stop for a coffee. Stay for an hour. Ride home because now it’s getting dark. You have ridden one third of a mile. Repeat self-delusion for four months.

Deal with anxiety
Decide to meditate. You’ve downloaded an app for this very purpose! Light a candle, turn down the lights, make a cup of tea. Close your eyes and follow the soothing voice’s instructions to empty your mind…
did you take the laundry out? If you didn’t, it will get soggy…do you need to schedule an eye appointment for next week or should you chalk the problem up to ‘random medical weirdness’? And does your college roommate hate you because she didn’t respond to your text? Maybe. Maybe…
Turn off the app and stalk her on Facebook.

Do your assigned school reading
Get a snack. Your brain can’t function properly without fuel, after all. Stare at the PDF document. Read three paragraphs. Open Facebook real quick– post a picture of your middle school dance captioned ‘Throw Back Thursday’! Laugh at how witty you are as a way to stave off the growing guilt. Read three more paragraphs. Answer the pressing text message from your boyfriend asking how your day was (terrible), then return to screen. Decide to give up and do it later. 

Have a long distance relationship
Calculate the time difference between the two of you. Nine hours. Alright. He times his lunch break so you can talk for an hour before you fall asleep. First try FaceTime– not working? Ok, switch to Facebook video chat. The connection is still fuzzy, so move closer to the router in the hallway. Wave to your apartment mates as they walk past, trying not to eavesdrop. Give up. Book a ticket home for spring break.

Overcome your Millenial-ness
Make a decision. Any decision. Try not to faint because this means saying no to all the other possible options.

Act like an adult around your parents
Ask your mom casually where your W-2 form is, and while she’s at it, could she explain briefly what exactly this form means. Tell your dad all about your new job and how professional it is (the blazers, the coffee, the copier, oh my!), then ask him if he will take your car into the shop this weekend because it’s making a funny sound.

 

Do You Cry on Planes?

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I cry on airplanes. Every. Single. Time. Long or short, international or domestic, alone or with others, it doesn’t matter. You can bet I will be tearing up before we begin our descent. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I am trapped in a metal tube barreling across the earth, or maybe because I’m removed from my daily reality. Some studies have proposed the altitude leads to a lack of oxygen (hypoxia) which can heightened emotions. Whatever it is, I know I’m not alone in this. On a recent flight to London, I noticed the man next to me tear up and then hide under his blanket!

So tell me, are you more vulnerable on airplanes? Do you stare out the window while listening to emo music? Or is that just me?

Ps. Photo via here

Things I’m Learning

top view photo of ceramic mugs filled with coffees

Cover letters suck to write

Friendship takes time, be patient

January is the worst but February is shorter

Call your mom, her voice will fix it

Studying is like a job. Just sit down and do it.

Volleyball is really fun, even in German

Tell your boyfriend you love him often

P.s. Photo from Google photos. I love you, coffee.

A Happy List

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  1. Today I saw an old man looking at his phone with a magnifying glass.
  2. Weeping willows.
  3. Receiving snail mail.
  4. That feeling when you are in class and actually learning something new.
  5. Orange leaves on the sidewalk.
  6. When my little bro calls me just to ask about my first day of school.
  7. First days of school.

Things I’ve Learned

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  1. How to fix the chain on my bike when it falls off
  2. Why the internet won’t stop talking about how good this show is
  3. How long to boil pasta for the perfect consistency
  4. How to combine two PDFs into one
  5. It only takes one good friend to turn your day around

P.s. Photo of Weinheim in spring 🙂

Why I Call My Apartment Building the United Nations

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When I was younger, I thought being a ‘migrant’, or a ‘foreigner’ or an ‘expat’ were things that made a person different– an outsider. I thought it was easy to separate people into two categories: native and other. My world was small and my thinking black and white. But on this ever globalizing planet, where the pace of change keeps accelerating exponentially, it is becoming harder and harder to maintain such clear categories. Everyone is beginning to feel a bit foreign, because all of us, whether we’ve never left our hometowns or traversed the globe, are migrants through time. Parents feel foreign to their children and vice versa, as the lives they lead look more and more dissimilar. The borders and languages of today are a far cry from those of even just 20 years ago. Minds are educated differently in the classroom with new techniques and types of information. A child of the seventies becomes a mother of the two thousands, and then a grandmother of what is sure to be a new reality all together.

And so this year spent living abroad in a little apartment in a little corner of a ‘foreign country’ has forced me to accept my differentness and to explore the empathy that arises from the shared experience of being different. I’ve learned more about the interconnectedness of our diverse world this year than ever before, and much of that learning has occurred without having to leave my building.

On the bottom floor of my building lives a Syrian family with three children. They came to this country as refugees two years ago and have since taken up the noble and heavy task of remaking their lives. The first night I moved in they were there to greet me and carry my belongings up the stairs. They brought me toilet paper and dinner and a warm cup of tea. We laughed immediately over our shared struggle with the German language and how much paperwork is required just to survive here. Over the months, they have fixed my bike, changed my light bulbs, reset my heater, driven me to the airport, invited me over for cake and so much more. Their daughters come upstairs for a glimpse into the “glamorous” life of an older girl, and I go downstairs for a taste of the stable life of a family. In our differentness, we are one.

The second floor is inhabited by a German couple in their seventies who have lived there for thirty years. Their names are old school German and their English is broken- the tail end of a generation that did not learn it in school and did not need it in their daily lives. They are grandparents and retired insurance brokers. My first interaction with them was one of remorse- I had broken one of their hallway plants moving in a sofa and knocked on their door to apologize in murderous german. They smiled and waved it off, “es macht nichts.” Through the next few months they brought me pots and pans when I mentioned my need, left their door open when I locked my keys inside my apartment, brought my chocolate for Christmas and giving me missing ingredients to finish my half-completed muffins.

Though sometimes awkward, sometimes challenging, my interactions with my neighbors have been a highlight of my year. They teach me about kindness, generosity and community. We are a group that has almost nothing in common, and yet we decided to look out for each other simply because we are neighbors. That’s all.

I wish this for anyone, anywhere, foreign or national, young or old, rich or poor. I have felt alone much of this year, but when I see my neighbors I immediately feel less so. They brighten my day and I know I could go to them if anything were to happen. With all the xenophobia and fear mongering  in culture today, it’s easy to forget how simple it is. We all need a helping hand. We all need a smile in the hallway. We all need to realize that foreignness is a shared human experience, and it is beautiful.

When my parents came for a visit, I joked that our building is the United Nations, except with less arguing. They agreed and felt reassured that their daughter was going to be alright at the end of the day. And I am. And when I move out at the end of June, I will be happy to move on to the next phase, but sad to leave the UN.

Who knows where I’ll live next– LA? New York? Frankfurt? But I do know that wherever that may be, I will try to be the first person to greet my neighbors with a smile and say “I’m here if you need anything.” Always.

P.s. Photo from here

Ten Moments

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  1. I was crying on the train and the man sitting across from me handed me an entire packet of tissues to keep.
  2. A little Kurdish boy started at our school this week. He doesn’t speak a word of German, so he and I colored together all class long. He is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, with long eyelashes and dark hair that sticks up in the back.
  3. I taught a lesson about California, and at the end asked the kids to break up into groups to prepare a typical news broadcast. It was so fun to see them stand in front of everyone and talk about the weather, sports and breaking news in California. One boy even said, “Grab your snowboots everyone, it’s going to be minus fourty degrees in Los Angeles”(!)
  4. Today is the school festival, where prospective students and their parents come to check out the school. I will do facepaint. Fingerscrossed that I don’t make anyone look too weird.
  5. I visited a friend and her thirteen year old daughter the other night. We sang songs on the piano and ate sugar cookies. The daughter turned to me before I left and said, “I like you, Micah.” It was sweeter than the cookies.
  6. I found Cup o’ Noodles at the supermarket. I’m never going back to regular cooking again, nutrients be damned!
  7. I visited a student Christian group at the nearby university last night. Everyone was so welcoming, and when one girl discovered I’d been to Texas she freaked out, because she lived there for a year. I do what I can.
  8. In my English conversation club, we wrote Valentines day cards. One boy wrote, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I love Trump as much as I love you…I don’t.” Haha!
  9. My little brother makes me proud. I read his university essay recently and it is so good!
  10. I went to Mainz for Fasching (a German holiday like Halloween), and they throw candy from floats. Someone threw candy and it hit me in the nose SO hard that I burst into tears. It’s still bruised. At least I experienced the culture in all it’s glory, for better or worse, and have a story to tell!

P.s. Photo from here