Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Creature Comforts

Our stuff arrived two weeks ago. At the risk of sounding like the spoiled American I am, I was overjoyed. As familiar shapes were carried through the door and unwrapped to reveal the furniture underneath, I was like an ecstatic apartment-traffic controller, directing a five-man crew to each item’s precise location and orientation.

In my defense, it had been 7 weeks and 3 days since I’d left San Francisco, where I’d already gone 6 days with no furniture or familiar fixings with 2 freaked-out cats on my hands. The clothing I brought with me was appropriate for our first 10 days in Hamburg, then I had to do some creative layering to keep up with the dropping temperature.

Now I had shoes, sweaters, books, more than one pan to cook food in—every new/old thing unpacked was a forgotten luxury. And, as things go, there were the little irritants of settling; certain walls unable to hold artwork, no clothing rods in the closet, repeated no-shows for our Internet installation, etc.

Truly first-world problems.

Because just days after I was happily putting away spare towels and my favorite brand of lotion, Larry left his office and saw more than a dozen police cars converging on a building in his complex that was being converted from office space to refugee housing.

Vandalism? Arson? Bomb threat? It could have been any of those. But suddenly the complaints of my world were meaningless.

There have been reports of more than 200 attempted or successful attacks on refugee centers in just the past two weeks around Germany. During our early days in Hamburg there was a demonstration downtown, near where we happened to be wandering. I suspected it was related to the increased influx of refugees, but didn’t want to stick my little brown face around the corner to confirm.

The police activity just down the road last week was a little shake, a little reminder that under the pampering and padding, life can always be reduced to its essence: survival.

I’m grateful for the privileges that make my survival not such a struggle, and weeks ago might have argued that hardship is a relative thing. But finding the courage to leave everything you’ve ever known and truly start over with nothing for the hope of survival--there's nothing relative about that.

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