We showed up like other Saturday mornings, to the field where J's soccer game was. This one doesn't have a clubhouse overlooking the field so E was with us playing legos on a blanket while we all tried to stay warm. Most weeks we've really lucked out with decent weather and even sun but this morning was actually a pretty cold and a bit wet. We were playing an away game against a team who mostly speak French and even Arabic. They are older and a stronger club and with the grey clouds, cold temps and predictable outcome, I wasn't thinking it was going to be a very enjoyable morning. We went and stood by the other parents, as usual. The mom and I (whom I didn't recognize) began to talk. We started talking about players we didn't recognize (we have a couple floating onto our team as we have need). Then I introduced myself and she did the same. She has a stepson on the team and is usually at his brothers' games and I that's why we hadn't met yet. We talked for the entire game. She was so friendly and warm and interested. She told me of some wonderful local events we need to check out. After the game we went to the clubhouse to get a snack and drink while the boys showered. Before we left she gave me her number and said to call anytime and if we want to go to a certain festival together with the kids to let her know and we can go a weekend they have the boys. I left feeling so filled up.
While this probably sounds quite normal for a Saturday morning, this is not at all a usual experience for us. People here are polite. If I initiate conversation people politely respond. However, we haven't made friends from those moments. In fact, we have felt pretty aware of how much we are outsiders weekly with soccer. Again, people are polite, but we just aren't one of them. We aren't from here. We don't know the ins and it's quite obvious to everyone. We feel this acutely and some days (or weeks) it just feels...well, that's why I don't write. I can't fill in what exactly it feels like.
We do have to say, these moments make us really thankful for our school community here. There people have invited us in. There are still plenty of moments we recognize how still outside we are, but we are grateful for the community that continually invites us in. We also are really thankful for our church family who do the same. We are thankful for the local grocery store clerk who recognizes us and always starts conversation. We are thankful for new friends from school who invite us over for dinner just to get to know us (that is NOT usual for here). I'm reflecting on these things and trying to remember them on the days I'm painfully reminded how much of an "outside lander" as they say here, I am. This whole experience definitely gives me such a different appreciation for others who come from other experiences and backgrounds than me. I find myself noticing others and really trying to engage with them in a new way. It also makes me wonder how I'll feel this summer when we're back in the US...and still feel a bit like outsiders. I'm not going to worry about that for now!