Saturday, September 28, 2013

6 Week Reflection

My good friend Steph from Olaf began her year teaching English in France this week. From what I understand so far, she is basically in the French version of Rimbach. It is a tiny community (circa 9,000 people) an hour away from Grenoble, nestled between rolling hills. So far, she's found the people to be equally welcoming and helpful as I have in Rimbach. Knowing that Steph would be in France this year, living a parallel life to mine was a big comfort as I prepared to leave the US. Remember that "5 Happy Things" list I wrote the first night? was number 6..... Well, Steph being in France was number 2. 

I've been in Rimbach 6 weeks today, but I don't think I appreciated how much I've adapted to life here until I started talking to Steph this week. Hearing her process her arrival in Privas and figure everything out made me realize how far I've come since August 9th (another day maybe I'll share the story of the day I arrived in Germany. Its laughable). Steph and I were brainstorming ways she could start feeling at home in Privas and communities to be a part of. That was the same thing that I did my first weekend in Rimbach. When my friends Susanna and Philip visited my first day here, we walked around Rimbach gathering flyers for Church picnics, yoga classes and hiking clubs. I never actually went to them, but I know that I could have. What I realized talking to Steph, however, is that a big part of my happiness here in Rimbach is due to finding community within myself. I want to be able to say what it means to "find community within oneself", but I can't pin point it exactly, so I'll just let that phrase be for now.

But to contradict myself, my entire existence in Rimbach has been due to the generosity of multiple people. I can't count the number of times people have gone out of their way to do something for me. Like driving 20 minutes out of their way to pick me up. Inviting me over for meals. Taking me to concerts. Buying me laundry detergent. Helping me with tax forms. Despite finding community within myself, I am also dependent on the gifts of others. 

My Anthropology professor Tom Williamson had us read a book on the Kabre people in West Africa. The Kabre have an elaborate system of exchange, essentially an entire economy based on giving and receiving, which is a little bit how I feel in Rimbach. 

Bernard blossomed again last week. As you can see, I was pretty stupid last time to NOT realize what was happening until the actual flower appeared. I mean what else could that stem have been?

I like to think that Bernard and I are in an exchange relationship. Water (and love) for flowers. Just like the exchange relationships I am webbed into at the MLS. The first guest teacher I meet in America teaching abroad is going to get a good dose of Karma, I can tell you that much.

One thing I appreciate about my life now is that I have the time to invest in people in a way that I didn't always have at college. There is something about college that can make you quite self-centered, especially in the St. Olaf bubble. I hated how last year I hardly had the energy to give to my friends because I was so mentally exhausted worrying about my own problems, my own major and my own path to graduation. I don't want to live like that. My life has shrunk in a good way the past 6 weeks and I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for having the time here to think about how I want to live. To create the habits and routines that I want to have in my life. To have the time to figure out what community within myself looks like and to be a part of exchange relationships. 

So as you see, this blog is expanding beyond just "the 31 guest teachers's year teaching at the MLS" because it is coincidentally the story of one twenty-two year old figuring out how to live after college. And I think I am quite fortunate to be tackling those questions in the dear little village of Rimbach. 

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