Thursday, March 14, 2013
This is a picture of what we call here a 'car-stop' which is a place to stand while waiting for a lift from someone in a car who is passing by. This is similar to what many of the islands here are doing. When I was young, hitchhiking was a cool, common thing to do especially for young people. Our parents worried and told us not to but we all did it anyway. Lots of 60's and 70's music is filled with references to this phenomenon. However, in recent years it has become much more unusual to see anyone hitching a ride let alone daring to pick anyone up. I know as a woman especially if I'm driving alone, I wouldn't even consider it. But island life is a little different. Hitching a ride here is pretty much a normal way to get around and people consider it to be pretty safe and as far as I know it is. They formalized the process a bit by creating places all over the island where people can stand and cars can offer rides if they want to. First of all it provides some safety in that there is some space for cars to pull off the road and so that the hitchhikers aren't dangerously close to the road. At night it is pitch black around here.
Today was the first day that I actually stopped. Being a fairly new full time resident I don't know that many people yet so I am still a bit hesitant, so today I bit the bullet and picked up a young man who was going to work. We had a very interesting conversation along the way and I was so glad that I offered him a lift. I would have missed out on the opportunity to meet a new and interesting person. Who knows what this meeting could mean, these are the small things that lead to connection to community.
Years ago I moved to a small village in Germany. I knew no one and spoke very little german. Luckily I had taken a course in german just before I left but being in the middle of a town of all german speakers, I quickly realized that my book-german was not going to get me very far. With the accents and local dialects it was as if I knew nothing. So I went about my business of moving in and getting settled in our house. I had remembered from our german teacher that Friday is the traditional day to buy flowers 'blumen-tag', or 'flower day' so I went to the end of the street which the main street in the village, to the flower shop and went in to buy some flowers in my school-book german, introducing myself as the new foreigner in town. The flower shop lady was very sweet and said how pleased and surprised that I knew any of the language and was willing to speak to her and introduce myself. I didn't know at the time that many foreigners do not do that, they speak English and hope that people understand. I was so happy that she was so friendly. She said she was one of my neighbours. I suggested getting together sometime. She immediately said, when? Taken aback a bit, I invited her over for coffee, kaffe-kuchen as it is known there, and she accepted. She arrived with a friend on the day we arranged with flowers and gifts, we had a lovely visit and from then on we were invited to every event on the street. I will be forever grateful for their kindness and generosity. If I had not reached out that day, I'm not sure that it would have unfolded exactly in this way. I was told later that people there usually wait for the newcomers to show interest in the community before they act.
This is how small acts sometimes cause big changes. This was the first real act of reaching out to a stranger that I've done in a long time. It felt good.