Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May Video Update

A Video Update 
from our new church building

We Have Walls!

Great progress is being made at our new church building and excitement for the big move is ramping up! A team of paid professionals and LOTS of volunteers has been working hard to get the space renovated and ready for us to relocate there at the end of June. Here are a few photos of how things are looking now!

Putting up the walls and spackling in the sanctuary

The hole in the wall to the left is where the window to the baby room will be, looking into the sanctuary.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wir Sehen Uns

"You have to murder the language on your way to mastery."

This was the advice from our PILAT language learning teachers in Colorado before we came to Austria. In many ways, I think no truer words have been spoken to us regarding language learning. The deeper part of language learning, the part that goes beyond simple phrases like "please" and "thank you," "how much is this?" and "where are you from," is a never-ending journey of exploration and failure. We continually reinterpret German in ways that would be rarely said (if ever) by a native speaker. This is sometimes cute, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes just annoying.

One such example happened on Sunday with a gal that has been in Austria for the semester. She knew some German before she came and has grown in her German since being here. Once my brain has switched to German mode, it is far easier to stay there and keep speaking German, which is why we were speaking German with each other at church. I was talking to a few ladies in our church and she came by to say she was taking off and this was probably the last time we'd see each other for awhile. (Good byes are an occupational hazard here, and I try to do them well when I can.)

In the context, I said what I would normally say in English, just translated into German. "I will look for you in a second when I am done with this conversation." or "Ich suche dich in ein paar Minuten." Or something to that effect. I wasn't really thinking about it, I just said it. The two German-speaking ladies in front of me began to chuckle when they heard that. The student walked away totally understanding what I meant (she is American, after all) and I turned to the two ladies in front of me and asked what was funny.

She talked about how it was so endearing how some Americans speak German. We laughed about it for a second, but then I asked seriously, what would someone in this case would actually say? How do you express that thought? The interesting thing was I had to explain the context and what I was actually trying to get across.

The answer came, "wir sehen uns." which translates, "we will see each other" (German rarely uses the future tense, though it exists. Most technically future activities are expressed in present). After that I started listening to conversations, and I can't stop hearing that phrase. But if I had a worksheet with this specific context and a blank, I don't think I would ever come up with the correct answer. It is intensely context specific and not incredibly fundamental, but it is still the difference between being completely understood and only partially. It is the difference between making up my own way of saying something, and saying it the way it should be said.

You could probably teach this in a lesson at a language school, but divorced from the context, it is a coin toss if I would remember it or not.  As it stands now, I don't ever want to forget that phrase or that memory and our church member lovingly snickering at two Americans trying to speak their language. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Welcome Home"

The boarder agent at MSP airport, friends at church, family, and the extremely friendly cashier at Target. This is just a short list of people that said the title of this post to me, "welcome home".

A few weeks ago, we traveled back to the US to celebrate my brother's wedding to his wonderful bride. It was a really great trip filled with meeting new friends, short visits with old ones, and some sweet family time. After two and a half years away, I did not know what to expect coming back to the US. The phrase that caught me the most was "welcome home."

Often my answer in the moment was simply "thank you," but inside I was feeling conflicted. There is a real sense in which Minnesota is "home" to me. I know the streets there better than probably any place and some of my favorite places are in that state. Despite all this, I have not lived in Minnesota for an extended period of time since before I married Bethany. So much in my life is different now, and so many things have changed. 

There are other places that could vie for "home" status. We lived in Chicago both before and right after we got married. This place is very important to me, with great friends and a wonderful church.

I can try to apply pithy phrases as "home is where the heart is" or "home is where my rump rests", but I think living in a foreign culture has changed my definition of home. My apartment here in Austria has become my home. After two weeks of being away from Vienna, it felt great to hear and speak my adopted language again. We have built a life here, and it feels like this is home. But the reality is, I will never speak German as well as Ellie will, and I will never completely understand all the cultural subtleties around me. This place is home, but I will in some ways forever be an outsider.

At this point in life, Vienna is home. We love speaking German, and we love living here. We have relationships here, and we know enough about the culture to navigate some of the obvious pot holes that Americans generally fall into. This doesn't mean that we don't feel a connection to the States or to other places, but we are so blessed to be settled and feel integrated in our host culture.

Home is a tricky concept for those that straddle cultures. In some ways, it feels like no matter where we go, a piece of our heart will be elsewhere. For me, this is because I have given my heart away, and I think that is exceedingly important.