Wash and I were both very nervous about coming to Portland. I think that’s not a big surprise to most. New country, new people, new life. And a lot of that nervousness we felt was actually about going away, just the two of us, alone basically, so far away from home for the first time. But a great part of the nervousness was also about the language and about fitting in with the people at all. We both feared that we might be spending the upcoming 11 months in emotional isolation, not making any real friends, only shallow acquaintances. When we talk to other people in Germany about this, they’re always very surprised to hear that, especially our apprehension about the language barrier. Because Wash and I are part German, part American and grew up speaking both languages.
My parents met in the 1970s in Germany as my dad was visiting some of his former army buddies still stationed there. They fell in love, they got married, they moved to California and lived there for a couple of years before they came back to Germany for good, all long before I was born. I grew up in Germany, only visiting the States on rare family occasions in my younger years. English was the family language for the most part, still, German was everywhere and thus has remained my main language for every-day interaction with the outside world.
Wash’s story is fairly similar to mine. His dad came to Germany as the pet of some long forgotten movie star shooting a film in Germany back in the day. His mom lived in a forest they were using as part of the set for their film. It was love at first sight.
So yeah, we speak the language of our fathers’ country, and we’re both not bad at it either, I think. (Getting a degree in English studies kinda helped with the skill-development.) But we’ve rarely interacted with people who didn’t at least know a little German, too. Especially not all day, every day, for 11 months. And yeah, our parents tried to uphold a bicultural environment at home. But that will only do half the trick sometimes. Both of us have been feeling somewhat out of phase and out of place and that is just all the more frustrating, because it feels like we should be able to do this, just like all the people who are surprised at our reservations about fitting in seem to think. We know how to German, but I think we still have to learn how to properly American.
A new friend of ours said something nice about this today. He said to us that we now had the opportunity to find and develop the American part of our identities. It made it sound like we already have it in us, that we’ve just got to dig it out. Thank you for helping us feel, for the first time since we’ve come here, as if we might be at home here, too, James.
Now, I don’t have a picture to go with this blog entry (unless James would like to share the one we took together this afternoon), so here’s one of Sushi the white angora cat dressed up as a burrito.