On the wall above my desk hangs a frame and in it are the first lines of the famous poem by Minnie Louise Haskins titled God knows. It reads: “‘God knows.’ And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And he led me towards the hills and the breaking of the day in the lone East” These words have brought comfort as I have crossed the border into a new country. Although not everything is new to me, there is still a good number of things that I have to adjust to. Three weeks into my stay in Germany, there has been some very interesting experiences and I share some of them in no particular order.
The mug and bowl familiarity
I love a routine. I love drinking my morning tea from the same mug and having my cereal in my usual bowl. With all the changes of moving to a different country, I have found a lot of comfort in having my breakfast from the same mug and bowl as I have done in the past few years. As minor as this might seem, it has helped me start my days well and not get too overwhelmed.
The hike discovery
I know Germans generally love hiking but I was not prepared for what was to come. It has only been three weeks since I moved here and I have already gone on more hikes than I did in the 4+ years I spent in the Netherlands. Some of them have been long, others short. Some have been in snow and others in sunny weather. Some have been to a specific destination and others were just wandering about. The golden thread in all of them is that they have been glorious. The views have been excellent and worth every step I have taken.
The wave and hug initiation
One rainy afternoon as I was unlocking my bike, it warmed my heart to see a familiar face walking down the street. The wave I gave that day was the most enthusiastic I have done in a long time. A couple of days after this incidence, I was in the city centre when another familiar face appeared almost from nowhere. I went in for a hug because why not. And that was recorded as my first hug on the streets in this new city. My heart was glad.
This experience made me realise how such a small thing as seeing a familiar face on the street would make me feel at home. There is a lot of change that comes about when one moves from one place to another. Even people are different. A familiar face can sometimes be all it takes to make one feel more at ease. At least it was for me on those two occasions.
A language barrier realisation
The city I have moved to is a biking city so it was imperative that soon after getting here, I had to purchase a bike for myself. As luck would have it, I found one online and made an appointment to buy it. Soon after getting at the residence where I was supposed to get the bike, it became apparent that there was going to be language barrier. The gentleman selling me the bike could only speak German and I, well I don’t know German. So he spoke German and I responded in what I am calling Dutman (basically a combination of Dutch and the little German I know). At the end of the evening, I can gladly say we understood each other and I got the bike. The lesson of the day was that a language is more than just words.
The Netflix subtitles deactivation
As stated earlier, my German is almost non-existent. So I have made it a goal to grasp the basics of the language as soon as I can. One useful way to do this is to use subtitles when I watch anything on Netflix. One day however, I hang out with this group of Germans who were not particularly keen on speaking English. This is good if you want to learn a language but to do it for hours on end can be extremely exhausting. I can already pick up some German words but that requires me to be very attentive. When one does this for a couple of hours, one’s brains becomes fried and so did mine. After this interaction, I went back home to cool down, put on some show on Netflix and turned those subtitles off. At this point, the only longing in my heart was for familiarity. I know I have used this word a lot already but it’s crazy how this feeling influences our lived experiences. Ever wondered why you have that one song you never get tired of listening to?
The ATM utilisation
One habit I picked up from living in the Netherlands is that I could go for 6 months or more without the need of carrying hard cash on my person. I never needed it. I could pay for everything, anywhere just with my debit card. Suffice to say that is not the case in German. The first shocker was on the very first day as I was getting on the bus from the train station. I took out my bank card to pay for my ticket and the look on the driver’s face said it all. So if anyone has a wallet with a porch for coins, consider donating it to the Geofrey foundation as I am yet to get one haha.
The tikkie remembrance
If you don’t believe in magic, go to the Netherlands and experience the power of the tikkie. I will not forget the night we went out bowling and when the time to pay came, all 18 of us lined to pay one at a time. I was tired of waiting for my turn and I can only imagine how the waitress felt. Here, the critical, life-saving and smart invention in the name of tikkie could have been very handy. For those who do know what this magic is, google is your best bet.
The Psalm 51 rediscovery
At the end of last year when Spotify realised their year in review, it was unsurprising that I ended up in the top 0.05% of Shane & Shane listeners for the year. They were my most listened to band by far. One of my favourite song by them (which was my most listened to song in 2021 according to Spotify with more than 590 streams) was Psalm 51 (Wisdom in the Secret Heart). In the few months preceding my move to Germany, I had unintentionally reduced how much I listened to Shane & Shane’s music. Little did I know how much their music actually means to me. Turns out that I am even more likely to write a blog if I listen to their music in a given week. I also tend to be more productive and even more likely to wake up early. Long story short, stumbling across Psalm 51 once again is perhaps the best thing that has happened to me in the last three weeks. It has led me down memory lane where I have seen the hand of God and this has given me the comfort that I have needed. Music is more than words and instruments. It is far more than this.
There are several other experiences and observations that come to mind. To list all of them would require a few more pages. In a nutshell, the past three weeks has been eventful. Overwhelming? Yes. Exciting? Yes. Lonely? Definitely. Fun? Yes. Stressful? Certainly. There are times when I wish I should have made this move earlier and other days I just want to be back home in Zambia because dare I say it; I miss that familiarity. On some occasions I see myself living in Germany for a few more years and sometimes, I wonder how this thought even comes to mind in the first. I know this is not the first country I am moving to and I have definitely mastered some skills from my past experiences. Nonetheless, there is a real sense in which some thigs are very different. It is, as it were, stepping into the unknown. So I sit on my desk and look up to remind myself to “go out … and put [my] hand into the Hand of God.” I know I will find peace there. When I get too overwhelmed that these words cannot pierce my troubled heart, I turn around and look behind me. On the wall hangs an eagle on a blue canvas. With this I remind myself that I aim to soar high like an eagle. The storm will come without a doubt but “those who hope in the Lord … will soar on wings like eagles…” And so I hope. So I trust. So I pray. As daunting as the journey ahead might be, there is peace in knowing someone has gone before me.