Cloistered from Covid19

The first week of lockdown was (almost) fun. While Mr. Wonderful worked from home and I was free from obligations, it felt like a chance to step back and recharge. I started reading The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I was sure I would use this two week lockdown to nourish my intellect, strengthen my physique with online yoga, and settle my faith.

I listened (by proximity rather than choice) to meetings about film and polypropylene and resins and recycling and customers and engineers and business cases.  I had video chats with friends from long ago,  nearly daily FaceTime with the kids/grandkids or sisters and mother. I cleaned the top of my cabinets, scrubbed my floors by hand, and posted non-stop on Facebook and Instagram.

The second week, I continued to read about the ‘rona and follow the directions of the Prime Minister, worried about my cough, grew exasperated when my husband said I needed to cut Facetime short because the WIFI for his WebEX meeting was breaking up. I defrosted my freezer and cleaned my oven. I waited for 6 pm, or 7 when work was finished for my great provider. I video messaged my gal pals, got excited when it was my turn to go to the store, prayed for my 3 friends who had positive tests for Covid19, and wondered if my non-stop headache and little cough could be from exposure at the dinner party at my sick friends’ house. I was interviewed for a podcast at our church. I was still reading The Goldfinch.

The third week, normal schedule resumed, though it was virtual. I was grateful for online church, Zoom Bible study and small group, Messenger chats with my friends. I celebrated a friend’s birthday with a group crémant toast on Zoom. I grew tired of trying to schedule running the vacuum around my husband’s meetings, hearing conversations about production runs and business cases and intellectual property. Our Zoom happy hour with longtime friends was a pleasure, and family Zoom meetin’ time with our kids a lifeline and a blessing. We signed up to help with grocery shopping and delivery with church, since we’d already been helping our elderly downstairs neighbors and our positive Covid19 friends. The Goldfinch dragged on and I grew so tired of the stupid mistakes the main character made, while continuing to love the character Hobie. I found out someone I love in the US had passed away and I can’t be there, to honor his life or the commitment of my sister, who loved him more.

Week four–ugh! In all honesty, I’m a bit pissed off at this stupid tiny virus that wreaks havoc in the life of the WORLD!

It’s so exciting when Mr. Wonderful takes his turn to grocery shop so I’m actually ALONE for a short time. On the other hand, as he passes for a snack between meetings and phone conversations, I annoy him with my, “honey, are you glad to be locked down with me?” and “will you still love me when they let us out?” queries. Yet, as my dear husband plays the guitar and sings in his beautiful tenor, I hum along in my serviceable alto. He puts his telescope on the patio and takes beautiful photos of the moon and the stars and galaxies and globular clusters. We’ve been married for 36 years…I’m sure we’ll stand strong in this and through this. And I finished The Goldfinch–FINALLY.

The amount of coffee we’re drinking is staggering, as is the amount of wine (not really–okay REALLY).  As my dear husband finishes a meeting and grabs for a snack, I cringe, dreading the sound of the pistachios and their shells in the little glass bowl–I’m just sure we have a rodent in a cage somewhere in the house. The amount of laundry is much less than usual, as my husband has his nice shirt only for video meetings, and I hang out in a tank and yoga pants. I cook, and cook, and cook some more. I might actually get good at it.

We head to the terrace every night at 8 to join the clapping and cheering for our healthcare workers. And every night, it brings a tear to my eye. We’re grateful for our health. We’re more than grateful for technology. I’m incredibly thankful for social media (well, some of it) and the diversion it provides, and the laughter at silly memes, and the feeling that we’re not alone.

I’m appreciative of those dear people who work in the grocery store, still smiling, despite enforcing the social distancing regulations. I’m grateful for full shelves in the grocery–for coffee and wine and chocolate and toilet paper, and beautiful fruit and vegetables. I’m thankful for the Post deliveries, and the Amazon deliveries. I’m grateful my little Chinese restaurant is open for takeaway once every couple weeks, and we’ve found some good pizza to grab. I’m grounded by my faith.

As this changed life continues, we pray for those directly affected by the disease, for jobs lost because of the lockdown, for milestones celebrated differently, for relationships and love and the joy of living. We look forward to a time of loosening of restriction. We pray for healing.

The Lord bless you and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you.

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This Thursday

Thanksgiving is all about the T‘s: giving thanks on a Thursday, eating a turkey named Tom with mashed and sweet ‘taters, and embracing traditions. We added another T to our holiday hoopla some years back, and since we moved to Luxembourg, it has become a big player in our November festivities…

When we were the young parents of toddler and baby boys, and we had an opportunity to save money toward buying a house, saving on rent by moving into a business and doing an odd job or two. And just like that, we lived in a funeral home.

Planning parties was tricky, knowing that if calling hours or a funeral were scheduled, we’d need to vacate the upstairs apartment, lest the rattling of the chandeliers downstairs rattle those expressing their grief. So when we invited Mr. Wonderful’s sister and her family for Thanksgiving, we knew our plans could go topsy-turvy. On Wednesday, we shopped and planned and cleaned and prepped and welcomed our visitors for the festivities. As the kids played and the men talked (American) football, my dear sister-in-law and I prepared a batch of brownies and threw them in the oven, knowing the picky little eaters in the other room would much prefer chocolate over pumpkin. We waited for the finished product, but realized there was no pleasing aroma of Betty Crocker wafting from the kitchen, because….the oven was not hot, not warm, not baking.

The appliance was antiquated, a huge monstrosity of enamel and iron, with a heating element that simply wasn’t working. Despite the men pulling and poking and plugging and un(plugging), calling every repair shop in the area, and driving to parts of the city no one should ever see, the oven remained broken, cold, unuseable. Our menu for the next day changed dramatically, as we needed a meal that could be prepared using only the stovetop and microwave. The solution was simple…tacos for Thanksgiving. The dinner was delicious and festive, the story funny for years to come (as if living in a funeral home wasn’t funny enough)!

And here we are for our fourth non-Thanksgiving in a country far away from family. The turkeys are tiny yet cost a wing and a drumstick. There is no Thursday closing of the office, no gathering of family and friends on a weekday for a midday meal, with the Macy’s Parade and football and the whir of a mixer and the mixture of laughter amidst the games. Of course I live in a different country and it’s unfair, and probably childish, to expect things to be THE SAME. So yes, I miss my kids desperately, and my mom and all the sisters. I miss making a meal for 10 people or more while my sons ask if there’s anything they can do to help and my daughters decorate the table. I miss the smells, and the heat of the kitchen, and the fully belly and exhaustion when the day is done.

As always, I am thankful, that our kids are with people who love them, that they are healthy, that they’re people who are kind and generous and funny. I’m thankful that I still have my mother, and that she Facetimes with me from her always rocking chair while I look for Dramamine. I’m thankful for my sisters and their husbands and how we love and support one another. I’m thankful for my dear husband’s sisters, whom I love and admire and enjoy so very much. And I’m thankful  for friends both here and around the world who become our family.

Tomorrow, the Thursday I’ve been dreading, we’ll give thanks for a God who loves us and desires the best for us. We’ll give thanks for Mr. Wonderful’s job, even when it’s difficult. We’ll give thanks for food on the table and and for all we’ve seen and done. And before we Facetime, we’ll have tacos for dinner and toast the technology that connects us with those we love.

 

 

Foraging for Friends

We brought only four place settings with us when we moved to Luxembourg. After all, we didn’t know anyone here, save our delightful relocation agent who was paid to spend time with us. We thought it would be just us for dinner, just us for drinks on the terrace, just us laughing at each others’ corny jokes.

For a short while, it was just us.

But then, the vacation, or “holiday” mood for you Europeans, with our new surroundings began to wane as we uncovered limited language comprehension, limited shopping hours, and even more limited parking spaces. With the dawning realization this funny, sweet little country was actually our new home came the discovery that we needed a plan–the same plan that had worked for us in our trailer in West Virginia, our funeral home and apartments in New York, our home in deep South Georgia, and back to our home in dear Fairport, NY. It was time to roll up our sleeves and get down to business about LIVING in this new place and making friends!

And now, in the present I question, “how did we make friends? where did I meet people?”  And I don’t think women are alone in the need for comrades. Not counting my delightful and enduring/endearing alliances with work friends, or friends I’ve made through my dear husband, here are some ways I (or we) have recently made new acquaintances/friendships:

  • Clubs–Though hardly all Americans (and who moves to another country just to be friends with their own kind?), the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg is an excellent introduction to life here. There are welcome coffees and book clubs, travel talks and hiking groups, moms’ outings and crafting hours and cooking classes and wine tastings, and wine tastings, and wine tastings! Opportunities to meet people and get involved abound. I’m so happy joining this cohort was one of my first steps to social sanity in Luxembourg!
  • Church–Attending church has been important to my dear husband and me, not only for the spiritual benefits, but for the social aspect as well. All Nations Church of Luxembourg is an English-speaking church with people from, you guessed it, all around the world. The people are welcoming and kind,  the friendships are rich in both challenge and encouragement. There are worship services and small groups, and here’s something you won’t see in America…wine at a church potluck!
  • Service–When I reach out to others, It helps me put aside my loneliness and loosen the grip on the idea that I’m the center of the universe. Volunteering to serve meals at Croix Rouge was some of the most meaningful time I’ve spent in Luxembourg. I made a very dear friend as we passed dishes and dished stories together. Though I stopped volunteering in this way because my poor old back couldn’t withstand the standing, it’s a pleasure to see my sidekick on a regular basis AND spot a few of the patrons around town!
  • Classes–Limping along in English only was not an option for us here in Luxembourg, so Mr. Wonderful and I signed up for French classes. The group at Prolingua was small, the teacher encouraging and challenging and humorous–at least we thought she was funny, but who knows? She spoke French exclusively! Though we were “we-could-be-your-parents” older than the rest of the students, we bonded over butchering the beautiful language in our different accents: Polish, Romanian, Norwegian, Greek, and American…and dined and laughed and festivaled together. We’re due for another meet up–I’ll be in contact, Dagmara!!
  • Restaurants–In European restaurants, tables are close to one another, often abutting one another so this big-butted woman worries about being able to maneuver to the table without…butting into someone. In such close proximity at our neighborhood Italian canteen, a couple at the adjacent table heard us speaking English…we began a conversation that finished with the exchanging of contact info and planning a next meal together. We’ve now shared many meals, a weekend away, and hours and hours of conversations!

Making new connections is certainly not easy, but what a richness in being able to share meals, life experiences, laughter, and heartache with someone. And making new pals doesn’t mean we forget the old or vintage relationships. At the risk of planting an earworm, “Make new friends, but keep the old: one is silver but the other’s gold.”

 

 

 

Seasons in Luxembourg

It’s the leaving season. In the past few days, two of my dearest friends left Luxembourg, and in days to come, two more sweet women, as well as others I’ve been privileged to know, will depart with their families. If they return someday, it will be as tourists, guests, “friends who are visiting,” not as fellow expats navigating this adorable little country. It’s the heart-wrenching leaving season…my least favorite season of all…

My phone has been pinging so often, with questions to a group chat like, “Who needs a hand blender?” or “Mint extract, anyone?” or “I’ve got bottles of toilet cleaner–who wants ’em?” As those departing prepare to return to a country using 110 voltage or a different plug, and their packers have given them lists of forbidden items in the shipping container, they’re desperately clearing their homes while clinging to friendships. You see, living in an unfamiliar country or language or culture is a catalyst for relationships, as piloting through unknown waters together fastens people  in a bond held strong by experiences recounted or fear of the unknown. Butchering the language with someone is so much more enjoyable than floundering alone, d’accord? How comforting it is to laugh about the lack of online registering and the lunch hour closures of government offices when trying to renew that ever-expiring resident card? And then there are the lingering lunches on the terrace…

We don’t forget or replace our friendships “back home.” In fact, many of the people I love spending time with here in Luxembourg remind me of someone in New York. The candor and humor, the laughter and conversation, the compassion and service…I can draw lines to match Luxembourg friends to New York friends (or West Virginia family), regardless of language or nationality or accents or looks. The phrase “having the best of both worlds” takes on a whole, friendly new meaning.

family

And now,  as expats move back to their home countries or next assignments in order to be settled before the school year begins, friends and family arrive here for visits, a lovely reminder that the longevity of friendship has little to do with location, but much to do with the heart and desire. The leaving season is upon us, and though it tugs at my tear ducts,  a lifelong alliance with the leave-ER is a sweet memento of life in Lux.

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Cooking up Conversation

I’m sifting through recipes, some handwritten, some typed, some with my editing marks. There are instructions for Kisir (Turkey), Cod Mousse and Chicken in a Pan and Cantucci (Italy), Chicken Tarragon Cake and Apple Pie (France), Orange Cake (Azerbaijan), Tart of Sintra (Portugal), and Lomo Saltado (Peru). I’m looking at the recipes with a smile, thinking of the women who contributed them…

english conversation

It’s a highlight of my week. I meet women and promote talking–about families, about cooking, about holidays and vacations (which apparently can be the same thing), about books and movies, about personality bonuses and blemishes. Because I can talk at length and listen fairly well,  it’s my privilege to facilitate the English Conversation group along with my British sidekick, Paula, at the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg.

know how hard it is to learn a new language, especially now that I live in a land of trident tongues spewing French and German and Luxembourgish. It’s encouraging to me to see these women screwing their courage to the sticking point as they speak, write and read in a language that’s foreign to them, without familiar vocabulary and grammar, without ordinary spelling and cadence. We’ve read about professions, then discussed our favorite jobs and those we were glad to see end. One woman spoke of a tutoring job she had when we was young, of a student who was “both lazy and stupid, a bad combination!” We’ve read about travel, then cited our best and worst vacations. When one member suggested her most disappointing holiday experience was in Rome, another chimed in (with a bit of an Italian accent)  “that’s not possible!”

And now our project is sharing our favorite recipes in writing for an international cookbook for the American Women’s Club. I’m learning so very much and tasting amazing food. I now know what a knob of butter is, that pearl is a type of sugar, that apple pie is delicious not only with coffee or tea but also with Champagne! I’ve grasped that to the tooth is the translation of al dente and can be used for food other than just pasta. Then there’s the realization that cantucci is not just any biscotti: this delightfully crunchy biscuit with almonds is served at the end of a meal, not with espresso but with vin santo, a dessert wine. How could I not have known about cantucci all my life? I’ve smiled as I remember that unlike French and Italian and Portuguese and many other languages, English grammar doesn’t assign gender to nouns, so  phrases like, “make the chicken into strings not before having hit him with the meat tenderizer,” or “add the sugar to the butter and beat him until he’s fluffy,” make me laugh as I think fondly of these dear women.

Though our course in English conversation may be suspended for a summer break, ideas are simmering for meaty chats in the fall. For now, here’s hoping the promises of tutoring in cantucci and meeting for  chats and coffees is, like all good pasta,  al dente.  Buon appetito!

 

 

 

 

Not just any restaurant review

 

It’s time to come to grips with reality–I’m waaaay past the point of using the excuse “I just moved here” to explain my lack of cooking–or attempting to cook–or even grocery shopping for that matter. The fact is, when I’m murmuring, “oh my gosh, it’s getting late! What will I make for dinner?” I know what I’ll make for dinner…RESERVATIONS. Whether having dinner with Mr. Wonderful or a lingering lunch with a dear friend, our neighborhood pizzeria has become our kitchen away from home, and it’s growing on us…like a truffle.

We first visited Our Restaurant just days after we arrived in Luxembourg. We were sans reservations, and were greeted by a flustered waiter who was a little less than welcoming and not at all charmed by our Tarzan French with a West Virginia accent. Generally, we can elicit smiles from the most distracted serveurs, but not this time. We ordered wine, vin rouge et vin blanc, which we repeated in French as well as English. The waiter brought two glasses of red wine, and was quite perturbed when we corrected him. As we dined, we watched customers come and go, some were greeted with the Luxembourg kiss(es), some with a handshake–we’d been greeted with shifty eyes, a nervous twitch, and a final resignation that they’re-not-leaving-so-they-might-as-well-be-seated attitude.  Being the types who wade in and ignore the more subtle nuances of European etiquette, we smiled and assumed the best, taking a smallish table near the window. The meal was delightful, the experience really was quite enjoyable as the hustle and bustle of locals filled the space.

It was inevitable that we return to Our Restaurant as, the schedule of our French classes, paired with the phrase “fully booked” from other restaurants and the rumble of hunger steered us in that direction. The restaurant is quite conveniently located just a few blocks from our apartment. Of course, it requires a nearly vertical trek home after filling our filling our stomachs, but who’s complaining? (Okay…I do…all the way up the hill…EVERY TIME). Our habit was (French class est fini) to walk from class in the city centre to Our Restaurant, arriving around 8pm, before the dinner rush on Monday and Wednesday evenings. We watch the maître d’ greet the patrons with a flourish, pour the wine with added kisses, and typically bellow at or frantically gesture for Pasquale–the somewhat detached and (maybe) confused waiter from our first visit. We see many of the same satisfied and animated diners, eat our same favorite delicious dinners,  and enjoy the brasserie drama.

And now…we are greeted at the door with the Luxembourg salute–three kisses beginning on the left side (unlike the two-kiss Italian welcome beginning on the right cheek–more later about greetings gone awry!), we can coax a smile from grumpy Pasquale, we receive a complimentary lemoncello at the end of the evening. When introducing our friends to Our Restaurant, they are welcomed as generously as we. On such an occasion, I asked the maitre d’ to take a photo of us, so he cheerfully took my phone to snap of this (not so flattering) photo instead of a pic of our group!

We’ve been scolded for using the wrong fork for our sea bass Valentine dinner (here we go with the big fish stories again!), and we’ve taught Pasquale the meaning of the word “fancy” and that we don’t wear it well. He is always happy to help with menu suggestions, to talk us into ordering the delicious and artsy pane cotta for dessert, always pouring the extra glass of wine for my dear friend and me at lunch (we pay for it, of course!). Now we feel a part of the neighborhood, like we’ve found “our place,” like we’ve reconciled our clumsy attempts of integrating with the elegance of Europe. Our neighborhood pizzeria has definitely become Our Restaurant, with the staff our quirky and loveable members of the family. Because, after all…96c19661e11912aac44401e72aaa34b5

 

The Best People

The Crown, S2:E4 “Beryl”

TONY: You’ve probably never been on a bus, have you?

PRINCESS MARGARET: (puffs on her cigarette) No.

TONY: Pity. You really do meet the best people.

I don’t mind riding the bus. When the temperature is crisp and precipitation is less than predictable, it’s worth a good hair day to check the schedule, validate that ticket on my phone, and hop on the number 28 to some of my familiar, if not favorite, places.

I’d had a wonderful morning with some friends and needed to scurry to the grocery store to grab a few (ha!) things for upcoming festivities at our apartment. The bus would be another 5 minutes and since I was most likely the oldest person waiting, I parked my tired boo-hiney (West Virginian for buttocks) on the not-so-clean wooden bench to await my extra long limo. A woman, most likely near my age, joined me on the seat then began speaking to me en francais.

“J’aime tes chaussures.” I smiled, and immediately told her, in French, that I spoke only a little of the language. She was not deterred from pursuing conversation, so I tried in my best bad French to tell her I walk a lot in these shoes, because I couldn’t remember the French word for “comfortable” (which is, of course, confortable— almost the same word with a French accent!!). She spoke a bit of English, I spoke a bit of French, as she told me her sister had a bad foot and footwear like mine would be good for her. (Was that a compliment? I hadn’t thought of my sandals as orthopaedic).

My bus arrived, and it was, of course, her bus, too. I boarded and sat against the window, and as she approached I realized she was going to sit with me, so I patted the seat and smiled at her. She introduced herself: Marianne had lived in Luxembourg for a very long time, though she was originally from Cameroon. Her skin was beautiful brown, as she pointed to her hand and said her children were the same color, though her husband is Luxembourgish. We talked about how Luxembourg is a country of peace and the people are nice. We chatted about window shopping at La Belle Etoile and cooking. She swore the prepared chicken wings at that Cactus were better than any other Cactus store in the country. She told me her husband is a good man, and asked if I had a good man, too. When I answered, she smiled broadly and we both nodded.

As we parted ways, she squeezed my hand, and I told her I hoped to see her again.

It was no random occurrence, the encounter with Marianne, in my heart or in my mind. In this place, so foreign and far from home, I’m finding a human touch, a smile, a word goes a long way in making me feel like I belong or matter or make a difference.

Have you been on a bus in Luxembourg? You really do meet the best people…

Summertime, and the living is easy. And quiet. And deserted. The programs at churches and clubs are bare bones for the summer. There is no book club, or travel talk, or Bible study or small group, no French classes–no traffic–as everyone (and I mean the whole country) goes elsewhere on vacation. The American expats fly home to Alabama and Michigan and New York and Oklahoma and Seattle and Ohio and Texas for weeks on end, taking advantage of the completion of a school year. The EU expats travel to Italy and Ireland, to Provence and Poland, London and Latvia, the Netherlands or New York. The motorways are filled with campers and motor homes going everywhere but here. 

travel-plan

For a week I sat here by myself, while Mark flew to the U.S. for work, still far FAR away from our kids. I did my best to stay busy, but I nearly had to break up with Netflix–it was so much easier to settle in with my favorite shows and actors and movies than to make myself join the rest of the remaining population of Luxembourg. The weekend was the hardest: despite the never-ending festivals in Luxembourg, the energy and activity of city centre, the evenings defeated me, so I called up my old friend Tom Hanks and the staff from Downton Abbey to keep me company.

Mr. Wonderful has returned, and the rest of Luxembourg is slowly trickling back. I’ve now experienced the sadness of losing three expat friends back to their homelands–just the nature of the beast here. And now is the advent of a  new crop of expats, having spent a last summer wherever “home” is, squeezing out every last minute with family and friends, staying in temporary housing until the shipping container arrives, shopping for appliances with the correct plug and wattage, foraging in the grocery store for products that look familiar despite the two languages choices on the packaging being more than foreign.  This summer, I’m the adviser, the info desk, and I’m anticipating the new friendships in the making.

Giant Blue Container Ship and Small Red Tugboat

The predicament here in this beautiful country, whether sultry summer, foggy fall, wet winter, or pretty printemps, is the coming and going of allies, fellow compatriots navigating not only the narrow roads but the wide cultural differences. I recognize that friendships exist in my life in seasons, for reasons–to teach me, to mature me–and I’m grateful for that instruction as well as the pleasure of rapport, no matter what the weather. But today? It’s Assumption Day in Luxembourg, and while this Protestant doesn’t understand why it’s a public holiday, my BEST friend is home from the office.  It’s summertime and, at least today, the living is easy. Cheers!

cremant

 

 

MYTH #1: Air conditioning is not necessary in Europe. Today the apartment is in full “cave” mode–the outside electric shutters are down all the way, the windows are closed. It’s an almost-blistering 30 degrees outside. Celius. For those of us who have difficulty calculating 1.8 times the temperature Celsius plus 32, it’s 86 degrees, and the sun is beating down on the southern exposure terrace with the huge windows and beautiful views I can’t even see right now. In order to keep my cool, which is nearing depletion, I return to the apartment after my walk, let my eyes adjust to the darkness, and pray for relief from my compulsion about (not) using artificial lumination during daylight hours. This is day 3 of heat, with 3 more warmer days to come. And it’s only June.

When we were asked over a year ago by my husband’s company to provide a list of items we would like in our Luxembourg home, air conditioning was not at the top of the list, but it was more than halfway up (reminding me how grateful I am for the elevator!). The person who had requested the list scoffed in her French accent, “We don’t have air conditioning in Europe–we don’t need it.” Guess what, Valerie? When the estrogen runs screaming from your body faster than the cool air from your apartment and you have your own personal tropical climate raging with vasomotor instability (translation: HOT FLASH), the ability to cool the air is more than a luxury–just ask my husband!

MYTH #2: Ice in beverages is unusual in Europe. That much is true, however, when you’re hot and thirsty and desperate after a marathon through IKEA, you can claim ignorance on your premier trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru, requesting “trop de glace dans un grande Coke Zero.” You think you’ve excelled at using a foreign language until the voice over the speaker says, in static-laden English, “you want ice cream in your Coke????”

MYTH #3: There is no speed limit on the autobahn. Not true. That’s all I’m saying.

MYTH #4: All stores are closed on Sunday.  That’s not true at all! The mini convenience stores attached to petrol stations are open on Sunday. In fact, you can fill your tank with diesel, purchase a delicious sandwich on a baguette, and buy hard liquor and a bouquet of flowers for your mom!

MYTH #5: All European beers are delicious. Aw geez–that one’s true!

MYTH #6: Europeans don’t like Americans.  I am so grateful that’s (generally) not true! The easiest, quickest, most honest relationships I’ve formed in the past almost year have been with my Dutch, French, German, Scottish, Luxembourgish, Irish, Romanian, Polish and Norwegian friends and classmates. Our cultural differences lend texture to my world, causing me to accept as well as give grace, spurring me to learn as well as educate. Here in this place, in this country, these are the kinds of relationships I covet, lest I tuck away in this dark apartment rather than experience the refreshing breeze of interaction before me.