Francis Strand, an American living in Sweden, writes about his third anniversary as an ex-patriate, and gets interesting comments on the topic too.
He says "I wonder if part of my being happy has to do with not knowing the language, that when I really start to use Swedish relatively exclusively, I'll lose part of myself."
I agree that language is a big part of your identity. Bertolt Brecht, who had fled from Nazi Germany to the United States, writes in his California diary: "I've been trying for some time now to express myself in the local language. I have noticed that in discussions, I don't say what I want to say, but what I can say. And as you can imagine, those are two very different things."
As for myself, I am glad that I already spoke passable English when I moved to California in 1990. I didn't have any German friends in the first few years, and I noticed that my German did deteriorate, and that I had to struggle to properly construct a German sentence when I would talk to my family on the telephone.
Did I feel like I'd lost something? I don't remember. I was so thrilled with all the new things I encountered, I don't think I had that feeling. And of course I was in love. I certainly felt like I was a different person, and I still remember waking up one morning and realizing that I had dreamt in English.
Looking back now, 12 years later, I'm grateful for how much I've gained. Learning to live in another language made me smarter, I think, like my brain gained another dimension. You look at life through the filter of another language, and it takes on new colors. You have different ways of saying things, different codes of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, different aspects of life that are emphasized - and you even sound different. I know that my voice uses different registers, different melodies for the two languages. (My answer machine has messages in German and English because I'd noticed that some of my American friends didn't recognize my German voice.)
I did pick up the same habits, though - clever puns and silly word games will always be favorites in either language. And what I miss most these days, is that there is no one person who can share all my jokes. There is the US subset that knows my US puns, and there is the German circle that understands my German word games. Tough to find somebody I can laugh with in "stereo". But hey, if that's my biggest problem, I'll be happy to stick with it.
And wuddaya know, I came up with a New Year's Resolution. Just in time.
I hadn't really wanted to make one, since I have never been very good at sticking with them (consistency not being one of my main virtues), but it popped right into my head: I'll start meditating again. I danced around my apartment for a while, looking forward to the new year, and then it occurred to me that I didn't actually have to wait for the new year to start. Oh duh!
I started by familiarizing myself with the Prayer of St. Francis again, and now I got one extra credit for the upcoming year already.
And if you're good, maybe I'll keep you posted on how it's going.
Just talked to my friend Greg and told him about the place where he can keep tabs on me, namely my blog, and he said what was needed was a place to list all the good things that happen to you - you know, if you're having a bad day, instead of concentrating on all the nasty stuff, you can accentuate the positive, look up your blog, and see that your life is not so bad.
I thought it was a great idea - I know it sounds really corny, but you know what? it does work! - and set up a new blog for him and me to share immediately.
No, sorry, you can't see this one, it's private. Go get your own blog!
So there I was last night, watching West Side Story, with the Sharks going "THEY started it!" and the Jets going "THEY started it!". and when it was all over, several dead bodies and a bunch of broken hearts later, I switched to CNN.
Just in time to hear the Indian Prime Minister say "THEY started it!" and the Pakistani Foreign Minister saying "THEY started it!"
I wish that were just a movie too.
And the Israelis and the Palestinians are so busy retaliating they don't even have time to think about who started what. (Not that it matters all that much any more, either.)
Christmas Day, and the snow is disappearing. Probably so the Three Wise Men have an easier time traveling to the manger. I called my family and a few friends, and now I am cooking dinner (fish sticks, of all gourmet meals), blogging away happily, and listening to a rockin' version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer on KFOG.
I love sitting in Munich and listening to my favorite San Francisco Bay Area radio station over the internet! I can't even imagine being without email and the web anymore.
It's Christmas Eve, and Munich all around me is dressed in white. It didn't snow today, but it is cold, and there is enough left over from the last few days of precipitation. The day was bright blue and sunny, and now the church bells are ringing through the dark, to call the faithful to Christmas Mass.
I'm not leaving the house today - I have the heat turned up high, am drinking tea, eating gingerbread, and reading. The friendly folks of Amazon, who receive a fair portion of my paycheck, just sent me several books by Connie Willis, one of my favorite science fiction authors. One is a collection of short stories called "Miracle and Other Christmas Stories"; I read it in the subway over the last few days.
She mentions Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol", and it occurred to me that I'd never read it; I only know several of the movie adaptations. So I went to the bookstore and bought it, and I think I will read it tomorrow, on Christmas Day.