Today, I would like to honor another blog I follow, among the many. This one is by Safa Sofia. She is an exchange instructor at Universität Trier and has been writing about her experience thus far. In her most recent post she is apologetic about not posting to her friends and family in a while, but claims that she has been living simply, trying to save money, be a genuine friend and partner and be an effective educator all while looking for a full-time position within Europe while navigating the cultural differences between the US and Germany. What struck me about this post is how she is both apologetic about not updating her friends and family about her life and that she admits that it is because she is working hard in her own way to live effectively and efficiently as an expat something I can relate to and appreciate myself.
I usually wake up with my husband. He isn’t normally a morning person, so even just being awake with him I think helps motivate him to get out of the house on time. Yesterday I realized that the sun rises around 5 am here, which is long before we wake, but inspiring all the same. So I promised myself an early morning walk like I used to to in previous spring and summers. Before I was out the door with my husband I had time to read Safa’s blog post and chewed on it while I was walking through my adopted city as it began to show evidence of waking itself.
She admits to finding joy in the simple things she has always loved, regardless of her location in the world and I think that is a constant for a world traveler, or perhaps just an expat. I thought about this on my walk this morning, perhaps because I hadn’t reflectively walked this route in a while. It happens to be the route around the old wall of my ancient city, going by all the World Heritage Sites and river together. It was beautiful, peaceful and often missed by commuters and visitors on whirlwind tours. Yet, isn’t that the way it works all too often. We get so caught up in our lives that we forget to appreciate the fact that we are alive, most in beautiful places – if we only took time to notice. It might be the people more than the place itself that makes it memorable and special or it could be both the people along with the location itself.
I believe I have mentioned before that our friends and family back home don’t want to talk about their lives much when we chat because, they claim it to be rather mundane. The truth of the matter is, that is what we want to hear because it is what fills their life – it is life. We do it here, as Safa also pointed out in her post. “I have been struggling with the same things I’ve always struggled with and am enjoying other things I’ve always found to be simple pleasures.” I think this is what I have always loved about traveling, that it gives us permission to step outside of ourselves and notice as well as appreciate what just is in the world beyond what we are used to in our every day. Yet, where is the rule that this is only allowed when one is on vacation or traveling in some other part of the world?
Spring is about rebirth, the flowers are blooming the days are getting longer and the weather is to be enjoyed!I feel my appreciation for my location has been rediscovered because of the weather too. There really is something to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), perhaps I only notice it now here because there is so much winter to go around that its cold darkness sometimes feel like it could last forever. Apparently “there is an average range of hours of sunshine in Portland, Oregon of between 1.8 hours per day in January & December and 10.5 hours per day in July. On balance there are 1953 sunshine hours annually and approximately 5.4 sunlight hours for each day.” (climatetemp.info) Whereas, according to the same source, Germany has on average of 1.1 hours per day of sunshine in December and 8.1 hours per day in June with 1738 sunshine hours annually and approximately 4.8 sunlight hours for each day. So, there is more sun in Portland compared to Germany, but not much.
I think it feels different because the darkness in Portland never seemed that deep, whereas sometimes here I feel like it will swallow me up if I am not careful, only to then have the cold cut me clean like a knife. It is after all mainly in the winter that I attempt to work more than in the summer to help distract me from the cold darkness. I don’t think I am alone.
When I moved here other students would ask, “Why!” As in, why the heck do you come here over exotic and hip locations like Munich and Berlin? I would share my answer, because my university has an exchange with the university here and I am here to learn more about the culture, the community and teaching than hang out with others and party all the time. I’ve already done that you see, that was me – in London, age 19 living in Camdentown (I mean are you kidding me, I was in HEAVEN!). I am still me, but have different needs and interests now. I have done a lot of living and a lot of growing, to appreciate where I am now and it isn’t just because the whole of the formal history of the United States of America could fit into the history of the house I live and still have room for more.
Where I am now isn’t perfect, of course. I have written about some of the imperfections and will continue to do so, but it works for me and for my husband at the moment and we’re happy taking pleasure in the little things.