There are no lunchboxes to pack the night before school. No drink bottles to freeze so they stay cold throughout the day. No brown paper bags to write on for tuckshop. Claudia comes home for lunch every day. That’s what kids do here. Her school is one building. No library, no hall, no playgrounds for different age groups. Frequent snowball attacks.
I see her growing in confidence day by day. She walks further by herself now. She has someone she can walk with sometimes. Someone who is a friend. But the language barrier is still difficult. They talk to each other in short sentences trying to find a common language between German, Hungarian and English. There is none of the giggly banter we are used to. That is hard for her. But I often see them leave school with smiles on their faces, having the odd snowball fight on the path, and know that once their German improves things will be easier.
Claudia is picking up German quickly. Now she will often ask me for things using the German word. When we first got here we hated watching tv in German and would quickly switch to the English channels, irritated by not being able to understand anything. But in the last week we have both started watching the German language channels. It wasn’t really discussed, it just happened. I often watch a German show with German subtitles because I find that hearing it and reading it is really helpful, especially if I watch a movie that I have seen before in English – probably because I have context to help me with the language.
In a new country with a new language you can sink or swim. To swim you have to adapt and fight your inner need to hang onto what is familiar so that you can embrace what is different. It isn’t easy but we are trying to swim.