Not Foreign (32)

Photo of my as a baby on my passportOur country of origin is an odd thing. It shapes us. Even people who leave their native land when they are three years old are molded by it in ways they may never understand. Even people who only spend six months in their birth country are shaped by it. They may not remember anything about their lives there, but that part of the planet makes its mark on them. They breathed the air and ate the earth there, and the sound of those foreign voices fed them, and the habits of walking slow or talking loud and fast were what they first came to know about who people are in the world. For my first six months all I knew was Germany or U.S. Army. All I heard was German or English being spoken as a foreign language, and all the people who passed us in the streets moved like Germans move. The food was German. My mother’s milk grew from German soil, German sun. Her whole life of Germanness became me there. I never saw this before. I see it now the same way I imagine Gertrude Stein in Paris. I see the same shadowy streets filled with life, with presence, with people scurrying on the way to their lives for the day, and there I am wrapped in a white blanket with big hazel eyes letting it all wash through me, becoming Germany with every breath.

About Riba

I'm a writer and a teacher, though I usually say it in reverse. I hope to find more of a balance between the two. ;-)
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