Sunny Days, Sunny Smiles

“Es gibt Kinder, deswegen müssen wir warten.” (“We have to wait because there are kids around.”)

My conversation partner and I were walking around Munich, enjoying the lovely weather, and had just come to a crosswalk. Although pedestrian signal was red, there were no cars coming (so we could have safely crossed) but Lisa explained to me that we still had to wait because there were children around. Coincidentally, earlier that morning in my intercultural communications class, we had just talked about why Germans don’t jaywalk—because they want to set a good example for the children. Obviously, they don’t want their kids crossing when the light is red (you know, because it’s probably not safe) so they take extra care to model the correct behavior. And seeing a direct example of what I learned in class that morning was priceless.

Walking around Munich has been quite lovely these past few days thanks to the gorgeous weather. Every morning I take the U-Bahn halfway to JYM and walk the rest of the way because I can’t bear to be cooped up in a crowded train with no A/C and only one of the twelve windows open. Okay, the U-Bahn is really not bad, but walking through the streets of Munich, seeing all of the different coffee houses, bakeries, grocery stores, and small shops (there’s even a tea bar and it’s absolutely fabulous), and skirting past the art museums, which are surrounded trees and green lawns is the most peaceful part of my day. It gives me a good twenty minutes to reflect on how blessed I am to be here and what I have learned so far. I’m usually smiling from ear to ear by the time I reach JYM.

This sign was outside of one my favorite coffee shops in Munich.
This sign was outside of one my favorite coffee shops in Munich.

One morning I was walking past a group of people when I noticed a quote on one of the girls’ bags that read, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” A simple statement, but a very meaningful one, and one that sums up a lot of what I’ve learned throughout my time at JMU and now here in Munich.

I found this on one of my morning runs.
I found this swing on one of my morning runs.

Leaving a familiar environment for a new one where you don’t know anyone and no one knows anything about you provides a very good opportunity for self-reflection. The first week I was here I over overanalyzed (I say over overanalyzed, because overanalyzation occurs on a regular basis) all of my words and actions pondering what people would think of me. I thought about the parts of my personality that I like, the parts that I don’t, and worried if I was portraying myself accurately.

I shouldn’t have worried.

The real “you” has to come out sooner or later, and people pick up on what you say and do (and also what you don’t say and you don’t do) quicker than you might think. Yes, there are people who will make quick and incorrect judgments about you, but then there are those who will take the time to actually get to know you and those are the ones who matter.

There were a lot of people enjoying the Feiertag (holiday) in the Englischer Garten
There were a lot of locals enjoying the Feiertag (holiday) in the Englischer Garten

I’m really thankful that there are a lot of those people in Munich with me. People who will explore the Englischer Garten to find the surfers, who will plunge into the freezing cold Isar, and who will play endless rounds of Capitalism or Spades. People to make dinner with, only to find ourselves still talking hours later. I’m truly blessed to have this time not only in a beautiful city, but also among people who want to be around me, despite the fact that I’m a little strange…

We found the Isar surfers!
We found the Isar surfers!

One of the most beautiful qualities of friendship is to understand and to be understood.”–Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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