An experiment in International living

Srikrishna Chaitanya
Published on: 11th March 2014
Perseverance,impeccable manners, mild introversion and a craze for Football. For the little that I know of Deutschland (the official name of Germany), these are perhaps what characterize a typical German. Germany has science in its heart and Art in the soul. A combination that lays the foundation for a holistic life.

In an effort to understand the insides of a German psyche to greater depth, while simultaneously hoping to practice my newly learnt German, I submitted an elaborate application for a rather unusual travel experiment -To celebrate Weihnachten (Christmas), Silvester (New Year) and live for a few weeks with a German family that's willing to host an international student. With support from my University and an NGO that promotes intercultural exchange, a host family -a family of Lawyers in Recklinghausen- a scenic small town in West Germany, agreed to have me as their family member for sometime.
an experiment in international living,germany Living with people totally unknown to you. In their house. Purely by mutual consent and shared interests. It has since then been a memory of a lifetime. A fairy tale in itself.

Here is a very brief encapsulation of some of the many thoughts that come to my mind.

Awaken the child in you.

Alexa Groll is a 6 year old prodigy. Blessed are those who very early in their lives discover their calling, in the pursuit of which they unfold the enigma of life. For her it was Art. A soulful singer, a budding pianist and an artist in her own right. At 6, she had already passed beyond straight line drawings and relentlessly pursued realistic art. Be it a wall, a floor, a paper or a table - everything was a potential canvas. Her father being a professional Artist himself, it runs in the family, I thought. She found immense pride and joy in every piece of art that she ever sketched.

She hadn't yet started learning English in school. So we mostly spoke German. She made a beautiful drawing with a heart outside, which I got as a Christmas gift. Totally touched, One morning while watching her sketch, I asked her :
an experiment in international living,germany " Warum magst du malen so viel?" (Why do you like drawing so much)

She looked out of her window and reflected for a while..

She then said "Ich bin mir nicht wirklich sicher. Aber alles sieht aus wie eine Zeichnung für mich. Tiere, Vögel, Bäume, Blumen und sogar Henrik!"

Translation: I am not really sure. Everything looks like a drawing to me. Animals, Birds,Trees, Flowers and even Henrik!" (Henrik was her 2 year old brother).

Such depth and perspective at 6. Poised to be a legend, I felt. That night, as I continued to reflect on her remarkable answer, I thought :
an experiment in international living,germany Germany is known to be a land of Poets, Philosophers and Physicists. It had to be true.Her seemingly simple thought would eventually mature into the deep wisdom that this whole creation is after all someone's piece of art. For Alexa, the whole world was a mere reflection of her passion. How many of us really live like that? People say youth is a gift. If youth is a gift, then childhood is a blessing.

As children, we needed very little to be happy, We gave love to strangers, ate only when hungry, believed in all our dreams, forgave easily and never settled for anything less than what we thought we should get. Almost nothing could falter our enthusiasm. But as we 'Grow up' , for some reason we doubt our capabilities more often, we are less unconditional in our affection, wonder in morbid optimism if that day will come when we shall accomplish all that we set out to do in this world.

It took a 6 year old teacher to teach me the difference between being childlike and being childish, being simple and yet not simplistic, being passionate about something and being merely 'interested' in something. I now know that they are not the same.Somewhere in the quagmires and tiring demands of this busy world, did we lose the child in us? On the way back, many close friends called to ask how it went. Talking of Alexa, I said,

"I'm still not sure who among us is the child".
On a scale of 1-10, how inspiring did you find this article?