I have been warned about this. “The second report is the hardest one to write”, a friend said to me, while drinking a beer at the lovely Osterdeich riverside. “There are so many things happening, but at the same time, it feels like nothing has changed at all”.
Looking back at it, I do get the feeling of what she was trying to say. The first few months pass by quickly, most of the days being something new and exciting – feels like a puzzle being put together. We learned as kids it’s best to start with the edges and fill the inside part later.
Suddenly the picture starts to have a shape, the daily routine forms and a weekly itinerary as well. Morning starts with a coffee, always the same one, with a few drops of delicious Hafermilch – being the thing I could never imagine living without again after my volunteering year ends – then continues with opening e-mail, going through the work tasks, stopping for a lunch, continuing until it is almost dark outside and the flatmate comes home for a refreshing drink by the big window of my room.
Winters in northern Germany can be a bit tough, I have to admit – especially coming from the country that is southern enough to perceive sun as a normal weekly if not daily occurrence even in the winter. Sitting by the window, sipping on my second dose of coffee, I kept wondering what to do with the time that is left – how to fill the middle of the puzzle, how to fill the shape with some content?
Looking back, that was probably the most unexpected struggle I have run into in my way of building a life for myself here, in Bremen. The work was already there for me when I arrived, the house as well. I have met quite some people that stood by me and will stay in my heart even after we separate from each other. What I lacked was quite simple – something to occupy my mind, something I can do on my own for myself while still feeling as a part of the community.
Funnily enough, whenever I felt lost like this before, I would have done the same thing to clear the fog out of my thoughts and try to see a solution. I didn’t need much, just a backpack, bottle of water, maybe a chocolate bar and a pair of hiking shoes. The hills were all around anyways and the more I was ascending, the easier it was for me to breathe. “Why on Earth have I chosen to spend a year in a place where the biggest hike I can do is the way from the bottom of our house to my flatmate’s room?” I have asked myself half-jokingly countless times while staring at my beloved “gojzarji”, resting peacefully on the shoestand.
I didn’t really bother searching for an answer. In the end I did choose this country, this city, this project and I knew what I wanted to get out of it. Maybe it was just the cultural shock, hitting me hard, just as the theory of it predicts.
Going from the honeymoon period, believing I jumped directly into the acceptance phase, I jumped heads down directly into the frustration.
(I have to admit, dealing with the German health system, did not do me a favor combating that one :D)
As the sunlights started to show again, so did my energy, motivation and feeling of being part of the city. I traveled, climbed, went to festivals, met new people, built friendships, visited museums and galleries, partied, participated in trainings, learned new skills, became part of collectives and initiatives, cried, laughed, had an intense experience I do not regret having.
Even though the German health system is still a bit of a mystery to me, I managed to get through it. My health got better and so did my German. I am still not able to use the Genitiv correctly, but hey, – who cares about that when I can easily make an appointment at the doctors using other language structures? 😉
There is still some time left for me, the puzzle is not completed yet – let’s see where the missing pieces are hiding and what they could be. Hopefully a nice image for me to take with me after my project ends 🙂
Sanja is hosted by NaturKultur e.V. on our project financed by the European Solidarity Corps and Jugend für Europa.