One Connection to Start it All
The most intimidating and abrasive part of my journey in the beginning was the lack of structure. I was set up to go to Germany for 3 weeks, had my tickets in and out of München (Munich), and a lot of time to figure everything else out as I arrived and shared stories with people I met. That in itself is a very big and scary idea. To think that I can meet people and go to places and plan as I go while moving around a foreign country where I don’t speak the language is intimidating. However the one plan in those 3 weeks that I had set up before hand was through one of my co-workers at REI (an outdoor store in the USA), who said that one of his best friends from school had just moved to Germany with his wife. So we talked about it for a few minutes and he said that he would be willing to talk to his friend to see if they could help. His friend, Michael Sommers and his wife Monet Sommers, instantly offered me everything I could have hoped for (and was going to request if I could), which was a place to stay and get my bearings in Germany. Not only did they accept, but they were the ones who offered!
After sharing my mission in Germany/abroad Michael responded, ” If there is anything I can do to help you out please don’t hesitate to contact me. In any event, you are also free to stay at my place.”
Wow! The hospitality was so present and incredible, and it was a wonderful blessing that I couldn’t have asked for more perfectly. So as it was, my plan was to land in Germany, and then to take a train up the West part of Germany through the countryside and stay with them for a few days in a small town called Leer.
Arriving in Leer
Now one of the things that he informed me of before arriving in Leer is that it is VERY small. As such, there are not many people and the ones that are there don’t speak much English. Considering that I was adventuring into a country where I was not fluent in the language, I was not overly concerned about the language barrier, but the size did surprise me. As I’ve seen, though every town has very straight streets, architecture, and design, the smaller the town, the more “homey” they feel. The houses line up nicely and are alike and it feels more like a town than a city. (Another incredible aspect of Germany that we do not so acutely possess in America is the fact that the public transportation connects to every city and town, even one like Leer which is so small that people in Munich didn’t even know which town I was talking about when asking for directions and help).
My first interaction with Monet and Michael was at the train station where they picked me up, followed by grabbing groceries and cooking dinner for me. The kindness and love that was shown to me from moment one was palpable and had such a dramatic impact on my ability to gain stability in Germany. Monet is a professional blogger on her website www.monetsommers.com where she talks about her life in Germany, their travels and experiences around the country, around Europe; food and culture; people and life. It is a huge part of her life to be able to connect to and give, not just information, but community through her posts and writing. This is something that I think really helped my ability to feel at home: her wonderful blessing of hosting and giving peace to those around her. I felt welcomed in her home and served by her as she cooked dinner for Michael and I who was mostly working for that first evening before dinner. This first night really served to stabilized my anxiety of my awareness that I was actually in Germany without a plan, and it was wonderful.
The Path to Germany
This life and hospitality that Monet breathes counter-balanced the methodical and determined way in which Michael also fills those near to him with life and energy. Which is an excellent demonstration of who Michael is in personage, as well as career, and how Michael and Monet actually arrived in Germany.
Michael went to school in Tennessee, and after studying Political Science and Spanish in his undergraduate, he got his law degree during the following three years. As he was finishing up with his law classes, a professor at his university happened to be an adjunct professor because of the position he also held in Germany. One day after going for a drink with his professor, the two of them sat and chatted for nearly five hours about life and Michael’s hopes and dreams for the future. Included in this conversation was a question from his professor, “How do you feel about Germany?” While Michael knew that his professor was the Chief Counsel at BBC Chartering in Leer, Germany, he inferred that it was merely a general inquiry rather than an implication of a career. Within a week, Michael received a contract for a full-time position in Germany working for the International Law Firm with his professor. Monet and Michael prayed and thought about it, and within the following week, they finalized their decision and began their move to Germany.
For Michael, the most difficult part of the move has not been living in another country, but rather the difficulty of the job of being a lawyer and was is entailed in that. Difficulty in having such significant responsibility and impact with his decisions and the weight that accompanies carrying this burden.
“One of the best and simplest parts for me is having such wonderful support from my friends and family in moving here, and with that having my awesome wife to be a part of that. Also with the job they took away a lot of the normal worries because they provided a house and we got a car and have transportation for what we need.”
During my interview with Michael I got to ask him these questions and hear his perspective on his future experiences.
How do you think you will grow because of your job and the culture in Germany?
“I think that I will grow because of how unqualified I am to deal with the cases that I am, and how advanced they are for my position. That even though it is somewhat embarrassing because of my lack of experience, that I will gain my professionalism and expertise more quickly because of that.”
And what do you want to do with that?
“I want to keep gaining perspective of how simple our needs and desires are compared to how you deal with a situation at hand. For instance, who do you become when the people or things you care about are threatened? Can people be so concerned by situations in the world that their focus switches completely to ‘me’ during a crisis, career, or stress? Who are you and is that stressed person who you want to be? I want to focus on the people and things that are important in life, especially when crisis hits. And I think that is what I want to do for myself and others in this job and in our life here.”
That wisdom from Michael helped me focus on and remember that it is what is indispensable that is most important and to be held most dear. Being with Michael and Monet, and staying in Leer was such a wonderful and incredible opportunity, and I am so grateful to them. So I want to give a shout-out for them for their generosity and kindness. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. Prost from Köln, and I will be continuing the stories as they come every day. Tschüss!