Remember that Girl Scout song about making friends? “Some are silver and the others gold?” Our new, silver friends are fast becoming golden. Last week, we had to say goodbye to our dear Australian, Lizzie. She is heading back to school (autumn is approaching Down Under) to study design. We had her over for one last lunch the day before she flew away, and Berlin is not the same without her. Luckily, we still have her husband Thomas here to entertain us. She also bequeathed me her bicycle which I can’t wait to use once all this snow melts. The bike, though, is poor compensation.
Lizzie’s departure reminds me how lucky we are here to have found people we will miss. We only have one short year here, and even though we know we’ll part soon, the people we meet are willing to form fast friendships with us. I’m usually a hermit, so this easy sociability surprises me.
The day of our lunch with Lizzie, I went to TaeKwon-Do, where I fell into conversation with Anne, a fellow white-belt. She has a Ph.D. in philosophy, but is now enjoying the second year of her three-year maternity leave. Her baby Louise is thirteen months old now.
So, I was feeling gloomy about Lizzie’s departure, when Anne suddenly suggested that I come over for coffee later in the week and meet Louise. Now, according to common knowledge about German culture, this does not happen. All the anthropological information about Germans tells us ex-patriots that we can expect occasional good conversations with the Germans we meet, but never will they invite us over or pursue lasting friendships with us. (My experience so far has been absolutely the opposite. My darling conversation partner, Claudia, and her boyfriend, Justus, make sure we are never bored or lonely or hungry here in Berlin.) But, because I had read this repeatedly, it took me a while to believe I had really landed this invitation. After all, the whole conversation was unfolding in German, what if I was misunderstanding? But, next, she suggested I walk home with her so I could see where she lived and thus not get lost on my way to visit. (She actually took me inside and right up to her apartment door, further evidence that everybody I encounter thinks I need an extraordinary amount of help to get through my life.)
Two days later, I arrived punctually and spent a cozy two hours eating cake, chatting mostly in German, and playing with Louise. Thank you, universe, for sending me a new friend just when I needed one.