There have been plenty of adjustments while establishing a newfound home within German borders. We seldom understand advertisements, are shooting in the dark when ordering dinner sometimes, and rarely have internet service when the hotspots just aren’t doing the trick.
That being said, our lack of access to the world around us means the direct human experience has been enriching. We’ve had our full undivided attention to the people we encounter, as opposed for the distraction of a “ping” when an iMessage comes in.
I’ve found myself to be completely and utterly inspired from conversation, as opposed to scrolling through my timeline or reading what the latest Instagram model is up to. Don’t get me wrong. While the internet is a great tool to share people’s stories, read something uplifting, or binge watch videos of husky puppies, it without a doubt is distracting us from the world around us.
I’ve found to be exceptionally inspired by two face-to-face conversations I’ve had, and more times than not they are unprovoked.
Miriam and Alicenstrasse
We were graced with a wonderful Air BnB for the duration of our trip. It has tall ceilings, large-sized rooms, and decorated with modern furniture. There’s always a funky trinket or two that shows itself in unsuspecting places, and we seem to notice then when we’re dashing out the door or getting ready for the day. The entrance smells of fresh flowers, and the light green walls ensure calmness, making you feel right at home.
Amenities aside, our first week here our wonderful landlord, Miriam, invited us out for coffee at a local spot. As we ventured throughout our beautiful neighborhood that has winding cobblestone roads and shaded by tall trees, Miriam shared some backstory as to how “Alicenstrasse”, our street, received its name.
Alice, a woman married to the Duke of Darmstadt, dating way, way, back, was a cultivator of human rights. She was the first to address public health, implemented a bathtub, as Darmstadt had been without proper hygiene for years prior, and especially advocated for women’s rights. Imagine the empowerment we, as five inspiring women ourselves, received from staying on a street with so much history.
We’ve heard so many stories throughout our time here, but Dima’s struck me in a different manner. She is a strong, confident, women who defends herself and her culture through every task she faces. Moving throughout the Middle East with her husband Mohanad, Dima motivated her partner to find new life.
Sitting down with Dima, you can instantaneously read her energy. She has high spirits, and an eagerness to seek communal change, despite what she endured on her solo voyage to Germany. Against the wishes of her family, Dima made the trek from the Middle East, covering four countries without the guidance of a man. Something that is not societally common amongst those fleeing Syria. If she didn’t have the support from her husband, whose love for his wife runs rampant, her experience would be vastly different. Mohanad stated, “Dima is a strong woman. I knew she would make it on her own”.
Not only did Dima face great lengths to embark on a journey alone, she maintained the positivity moving forward in her resettlement process. She and Mohanad started a volunteer organization, We Add Value, to aide the integration process of Syrians into the Germany culture. They conduct tasks such as gardening, babysitting, or other duties to make life a little easier. Although it’s been everything but simple, and sometimes takes time to debunk myths behind customs such as wearing a hijab, Dima is making forward motion strides in her community, and new life.
Although there are so many amazing stories I’ve heard on the trip, knowledge gained, and so many new faces met, I leave you with this.
Instead of scrolling through your Facebook feed while waiting in line for a coffee, responding to emails when checking out at the grocery store, or Snapchatting your life as its happening instead of seeing it for yourself, put down you phone. Engage in conversation with someone new, even something as simple as asking them how their day was.
I’ve learned more on this trip about people, my surroundings, and myself, all through the mere task of a conversation. An entity I think gets lost in the distraction of our devices, yet it’s power is unimaginable.