9.24.2008

The harvest is great

Grape picking came early this year. I look outside my bedroom window and still see large, leafy vines, but the grapes--the best of which will soon be pressed and placed in barrels-- have all but vanished, thus ending another harvest.

For the first time in my life, I've witnessed a complete cycle in grape production and can't help but relate it to my own stages of development as an expatriate.

I came to the Rhineland Pfalz, a primarily agricultural area in Germany that is known for its vineyards, in December of last year. But in the dead, cold winter, the vines were bare and there wasn't a hint of life to be found.

I could relate to these grapevines. Having just left my career and country to be Max's trailing spouse, I didn't feel like a productive citizen anymore. And for a time, engulfed by the deeply entrenched clouds of winter, I found myself going into a period of hibernation, hunkered down rather than meeting the challenges of life in a foreign country. I was understandably intimidated. I didn't know how get by, let alone thrive, in Germany. I couldn't talk to my neighbors. I couldn't read the labels at the grocery store or the bills that came in the mail. Besides my husband, I didn't know a soul and, almost as important, nobody really knew me. In almost every way, I needed to find, if not even reinvent, who I was and my how I would lead my everyday life.

Hibernation is Nature's way of protecting plant and animal life from a difficult season, and my period of inactivity was no different. It afforded me the opportunity to rest and decompress from the whirlwind of changes that had come my way. Even though I had welcomed these changes, I felt exhausted by the magnitude of what had transpired. Fortunately, even before the first, Spring buds began cropping up, my hibernation ended and I began to feel a sense of renewal, which has since burst into all-out enthusiasm for my new life and home.

I write these words today because my site is frequently visited by other people, who are about to embark on or have just started their own adventure of expatriation. And while I am still relatively new to this lifestyle, I feel I have learned a great deal in a short time and have overcome much of the culture shock I faced initially. Today, I enjoy my life here in Germany, have made many new friends, learned how to make my way around without feeling completely lost, and, most importantly, come to appreciate the beautiful country and culture as something to be cherished.

The grapes may be gone and the leaves may be fading with the passing seasons, but my spirit continues to blossom forth with zeal and enthusiasm. May it be the same with you.

18 comments:

Yelli said...

This is sooooo true and what a lovely, articulate, thoughtful post!

Can I just tell you again how excited I am to visit with you at Whiny Expat Weekend?

swenglishexpat said...

Beautifully written, Diane, wise words.

A Touch of Dutch said...

Wow! Very well-written, Diane :) And such a very good comparison. Indeed, a very good comparison! Your blog entry really says it all!

headbang8 said...

Hear, hear!

What a precious gift it is, to have the opportunity to live in another country. I know many expatriates who squander that gift. It's a joy to see you embrace it, Diane.

It's a matter of temperament, I think. When I lived in Japan, I noticed that the more reflective temper thrived as expats--the readers, the thinkers, the artists, those with warmth and good humour.

The shallow types who don't rest unless they can show some kind of immediate progress, however meaningless or shallow, never stopped to understand their environment.

They insisted that they must be the masters, in control of their environment--nay, in command of it. They found their quest futile, and just frustrated themselves.

Heaven forbid these people should use the gift to learn more about the world, and the many different sorts of people who make it tick. Or, god forbid, use these little challenges to learn more about their own character.

patches said...

Very thoughtful post. Grasshopper, you have learned well.

Any of the changes you mentioned are enough to cause consternation, but when you bundle them together into a heavy package, the load is difficult.

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

Beautiful! And I definitely identify. I came in August, which meant that winter was just around the corner...and I definitely hibernated. And I *so* needed that, both in regard to moving here as well as for my life in general. Great post :)

Paige Jennifer said...

Beautiful and honest post - just what I needed on this chilly September morning.

Connie said...

Lovely analogy. Raises glass in toast. Cheers. :-)

Simple Answer said...

The only thing your post left out is what an inspiration you've been to first-time overseaers! So allow me - you inspire my dear. You make it seem so do-able, you inspire!

AmyD said...

Love this beautiful portrayal of your personal journey...you are very useful and it brings me joy to know you are finally feeling at home in your "new" surroundings. Good work, Diane! You should be very proud of how versatile and open to change you are.

kenju said...

How nice it is that you have such good insight into your situation. You've made the best of it, it seems.

egan said...

I can't speak for all of us, but it's been a lot of fun to see your tranformation occur. You seem much more at ease with yourself than say 6-9 months ago. I like the grape analogy.

Ron said...

A BEAUTIFULLY expressed post, Diane!!!

Just beautiful!

And I can SO identify with your words.

And BOY...those grapes sure look YUMMY!

I bet they'll make an incredible WINE!

Pinot Noir anyone?

American in Norway said...

Super post! I am impressed it has taken you less than a year to love your new "home"....

I happy to announce, that FINALLY I am starting to feel at home in Norway...I think attitude has a lot to do with it...You have such a positive attitude & a beautiful spirit... I am sure that you would be able to thrive whereever you were planted....

Sigh... I long for my days back in Germany....

V-Grrrl said...

I think many expats underestimate how big the change will be when they move. I kept thinking all the research and reading I had done in advance would somehow dull the psychological impact of being completely out of my element. Wrong!

When I advise soon-to-be-expats, what I tell them over and over again is to give themselves TIME and acknowledge what they're feeling.

JeanAnnVK said...

Love this post, Diane...great job. My grapes are ready to harvest...will give me something to think about as I am picking...

Cheryl said...

What a lovely post! If I ever become an expat, I will remember. In fact, I'll remember whenever I go into a hibernation of my own.

kenju said...

Indeed it IS a lovely post. I am happy to know that you are content with life there and that you are not concerned about moving elsewhere soon. You seem to have extracted the best out of life in Germany. Good for you!