“You are not like other Germans.”
I think this was one of the best compliments during my time here. It came from my close Spanish friend who would be proud to be my friend. But what this made me realize is, that during the past months I haven’t learned so much about America, but I have actually learned more about myself and how I engage with people. So in the end, this is not about me being in America, but people shaping my life and perspective – and these people happen to be in America. Therefore, my “wrap up” is not about where I have been and what I have done as this is actually not that important. What is important is who was with me? If I think about a particular situation, moment, location – who is standing next to me?
I met one of the happiest people. She smiles and looks forward to every new day. She would make me laugh in a couple of minutes (we share the same humor). And I haven’t discovered her secret yet. She is Australian and I am pretty sure it is connected to that and the fact that she has already cuddled a koala.
And then there are Jeannette and Dick, my host family. They are just family now. And Bainbridge was my home away from home. And who wouldn’t feel at home with an “open bar” after 3pm, John Stewart on TV, and a fabulous view of the Seattle skyline. But besides sharing their home, food and dogs with me, they also shared their thoughts, joys, and sorrows with me. And I did the same.
Who is saying that teacher and student can’t be friends? Well, Cathy and me have proved them wrong. I met her in my class on Water and Security in the Middle East so I can say the course was definitely worth it! I think she is the most compassionate Buddhist I have ever met and will ever meet. I admire her calmness, kindness, and strength and courage. She is a compassionate fighter – for peace in Israel/Palestine and for her family. And I have learned so much from her. (By the way, her work inspired my topic for the MA thesis.)
And then there were these two communities. One small and one big. But both full of love and acceptance. Living Interfaith gave me this amazing welcome so that from the minute I stepped into the sports hall I felt I belong here. No expectations, just acceptance and inspiration. The choir of the Amazing Grace Spiritual Center helped me on so many different levels, I think they don’t even know. First, I could sing again. And I love singing. Second, they took my hands and I was part of the circle, just like that. Even though I could only sing with them for some weeks – no questions, just love and curiosity. And third, standing in front of the choir on my last evening and having them sing for me, I knew they will always be part of my life as I will always remember this moment.
And yes, there were many more. Those in my classes, those who I met for a coffee, those who I met on my travels in Chicago, New York, Fiji, and in Los Angeles. Those who lived next door (and I mean next door on my floor), those who loved having me around on their Thursday walks, and those who I saw on my regular visits to the Burke Café. And of course those, who helped me digest all my experiences and thoughts via email, skype and phone calls. They have all names, faces and stories to tell. But I can’t tell them all. And even though they might never know, they have left a mark on my life. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse (I am thinking of the supervisor at the post office in the U-district!).
And even though I am not in love with the country (sorry -> Republicans), I am in love with (90% of) those people. They have shaped my version of America.