As China wasn’t likely to become a home where I could be an active part of a community, I moved on to Spain. We built up an office, so there weren’t many coworkers, I was single, and three family members, my granny, my aunt and my granddad, had just died within months. I wasn’t in a good place, shaken and lonely, and I was more a ghost, a visitor, a stranger than ever.
The time in Spain can be roughly divided into four stages: arrival in Barcelona, the Mallorca years, on top of Barcelona, the village.
Integration wasn’t on the menu in the first stage, as I didn’t even know whom I would have wanted to integrate. During the Mallorca years, I tried to integrate into a strange bunch of german speaking island dwellers, which, in hindsight, was a disaster, and that part was clear from the second I moved there. I was probably just desperate to belong anywhere, and I was apparently willing to pretend I was someone I was not. And as we all know how these desperate efforts end.
Back in Barcelona, I found a new group to affiliate with, Burners. It held the promise of integration, acceptance and self-expression. Well, it was a wild ride, and I made some great friends. I also experienced a hedonistic, abusive shitshow and surreal situations. I learned a lot, but all those experiences had nothing to do with the country whose guest I was. Spain was merely a pretty backdrop to our egomaniac hallucinations.
During that time, I moved into an apartment next to the Sagrada Familia with some friends, and I guess this was the first step into grounding. After some therapy sessions, MBSR and regular meditation practice, the person I really am started to show below the layers. That person stated to put their feelers out in search of a community as the wish for a chosen family beyond the parties became clear. I am not sure if I would have ever made that step, but as the landlady raised the rent by roughly one-third, I packed my bags and moved to the village I had by then visited a few times.
The village forced me to integrate simply because the people are friendly and curious, and there is no other way than to learn and speak Spanish. To this day, I experience a bigger satisfaction in my social contacts with steps in improved language skills. My friends in the village are, nevertheless, Germans, but we attend the local festivities and all. There I can see how this integration project would have a chance because being an active part of the community is tangible, and I could archive it with a realistic amount of effort.
Stories of integration
Once, I was at the town hall for a document. Apparently, they had forgotten to get my signature on a paper, and word travelled fast, so when I left the bakery, someone had already informed me that I should go back, plus the guy from the town hall was about to go to my house as I lived close by anyway.
There was a three-day thunderstorm, and my roof was leaking. I got messages from friends in the village asking if I needed anything or wanted to come over.
As I was eligible to vote for the major and the EU parliament, I did go to vote. I was badly prepared as I only followed the news for Germany and almost voted for the populist/fascist party.
These stories illustrate why I love being there, and despite never being a true villager, I feel like I belong. There are people who care, we share a car, we have dinner together, help each other out, and it does feel like a community – a community with the promise of more and deeper connections – to the people and the land.
The last story illustrates why I returned to Germany for the time being. While I could live in this little mountain paradise with all its good and bad, my possibilities to bring forth real change are limited. For me, in my specific situation, coming to Hamburg and being engaged here is what I see as the best use of my time, given the luxury and privilege of choice I have.