Sunday, August 6, 2017

New Kid On The Block

Three weeks and two days have passed already since I first set foot here in Germany last July 13, 2017. As I've said in my previous post, it was a dream of mine to pursue a PhD degree in biomedical science and, finally, it's now becoming a reality. Getting here was never easy. It was hard work, determination, perseverance, support of the people around me, faith, and most importantly, God's mercy that got me through all this. Whenever I remember all that I've been through, sometimes I can't help but get teary eyed.

Right now, I am still adjusting in my new environment.

First let's talk about the weather. It's summer but sometimes I do feel like it's autumn or spring. The weather here can get a bit crazy within the day. It's drastic, from 29°C where the sun is shining bright with cool breeze to 12°C where the rain is pouring with nearly freezing winds. There are days where it's nice to walk around but there are days where you just want to stay in the comfort of your bed. One thing that I've been doing is constantly checking the weather update just to be prepared. I also got an umbrella. In preparation for the colder months ahead, I am also planning to buy some jackets and coats.

Second, let's talk about the people. Stereotypes about Germans include being unfriendly, cold, direct, and are not into small talks. In my thee weeks here, I encountered some that look unfriendly and cold at first but actually they are good people. The thing with stereotypes is you compare a culturally different group of people with another group. So for me, coming from the Philippines, the norm is giving a warm welcome, showing that bright smile and greeting, to someone new. But here, on the day I arrived, I wasn't greeted by a smile and warm welcome from the reception personnel at the institute. It's just like, let's get down to business. "Why are you here? Who are you looking for?" etc. He's very direct. I wasn't offended or something because I've prepared myself about the German stereotypes. I think getting on to business is their norm here. Surely they'll look unfriendly if I compare them to the norm back home but that's what stereotyping is all about, it just compares. You can't judge someone whether he/she is a good person just by stereotyping.

When it comes to my supervisor and colleagues at work, I'd have to say they are warm and friendly and easy to work with. One of my hopes here is to have  a good and professional relationship with the people I'm working with. The night before my first day at work, I was very anxious. Good thing, that first day went smoothly. Also, it's nice that my supervisor is not intimidating and has a passion for what he's doing.

I have to add the random strangers I met outside of work. I'm very fortunate for all the act of kindness I experienced from them. I remember the day I arrived here. Jet lagged and all but I have to buy some adaptors. Using the map given by the HR, I was at the Lindenburg station looking at my map. A lady approached me and asked if I needed help. I must have looked like a lost child but I truly appreciate her gesture. Then one Saturday, I was again in Lindenburg station but the shop where I buy tickets is closed. While inside the tram, I asked a girl (whom I thought is Korean but is Chinese) how to get a ticket and she helped and taught me on getting the ticket from the machine in the tram. Also, she's a Master's student at a nearby institute who's also studying biomed so we had some conversation about our background and studies. Another Saturday, I went to the laundromat. I was looking at the directions but they are all in German. I was dead smack figuring how I'll wash my clothes. An old man asked me if I needed help. He explained one by one all the things that I have to do. He's so good in teaching every single detail I have to know, from getting the detergent in the machine to operating the washing machine to using the dryer. He's even giving me his detergent but I was shy, so I just bought one from the machine. I did some errands in the grocery and then came back to the laundromat and then, we had a good talk. He said he is the one doing the laundry of his clothes and his wife's because his wife is sick, multiple sclerosis. When he learned that I'm doing my PhD, he said that he had a neighbor who used to work at my institute. It's really a wonderful experience talking to him and realizing that he is such a good man. There's this time, while apartment hunting, I was so hungry I went to the nearest bakeshop. I only bought a slice of pie but the lady got three more breads and gave them to me as a gift. I will always be thankful to them for all the help and genuine act of kindness! I hope to also give back by helping other people.

Third, let's talk about how I'm handling some of the not-so-good stuff. Since I am a foreigner, I can't help but compare how I look with the people here. Clearly, I am different - from head to toe. The color of my hair, the color of my eyes, the color of my skin, the shape of my face, the built of my body...I am way, way different from them. They all look like models and dolls in my perspective. Yes, I have to say dolls because most of my dolls when I was a child were blonde, fair-skinned, with blue or green eyes. They are not discriminatory, but deep inside, I can't help but feel like I'm the only thorn among the roses. I'm starting to become self conscious and insecure in my own skin. Sometimes, I feel that I'm too old to be thinking that way. I'm an adult and an adult should know what is right. And that is to accept how different I am, to be content and happy with how I look, and to celebrate the diversity of people. For now, everything is still a learning process. It is my hope though that one day, I'll be able to embrace and celebrate my uniqueness and how diverse the humankind is all over the world.

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