Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Scariest Place in Germany

Each day, I must confront what is surely the scariest place in Germany. My body tenses. My mind whirs with worry. And I am altogether filled with fear of a place where negotiations are uncertain and terror could await behind any corner. Yes, you have guessed the terror of my life: elementary school (Grundeschule). I can't quite explain what it is that makes me the most fearful: not knowing what's expected, not knowing any of the people and feeling incapable of meeting them, or the possibility that someone might speak to me or that I might need to speak to them. But it is without a doubt terrifying. I feel as if I am perpetually in the position of a first grader. Imagine how my children must feel. Slowly, we're figuring things out, buying the DIN 4 (that's a size) drawing blocks (that's a bad of paper). Getting them some Hausschuhe to wear in class (though we've adopted that at home, too, in rainy Bonn), we even got them on the school milk plan. But, today, I heard a woman speaking to her daughter in English. Flat, unadorned, ordinary American English. (Thank you, God.) I introduced myself, and she said she was D.C. and had been living in Bonn for a year. And suddenly we were back in the United States. Still, there is one thing that fills me with courage. It's when I look at my children as they walk into building, keeping their eyes on the other children, soaking in every reaction, every move, to see if today they will be accepted. When we asked my daughter whether she thought sending her to German-speaking school was a good idea or not, she said, "Going to school is half of the adventure." That girl is my hero.

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