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Andre and Autumn

for André

“More agua s’il vous plaît darling”
“Of course Shatzi”
“Danke bem”
“Bitte carñia”

Languages babble and bubble together, creating a murmuring brook of shatzi, darling, bem, cariño, sweetie. These words pass friend to friend, along with grins and hugs, and all manner of affection. Latin elasticity blends with German structure, American over-affection blends with French over-indulgence and something like family is born.

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Building a community of people whose homelands span several continents requires taking the best of everything and mixing it together. The odd assortment that emerges allows each of us to step out of our cultural boxes, beyond the safety of the relationships we already knew, and form something new. We become friends, and more, we become the phone call home and the cup of soup for each other. We care for each other’s broken hearts, and broken bones. We mend hard days with soft hands and kind words.

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The odd mix of generous affections and ironic curses in more than five languages is daunting. The polyglot family that has swept up my heart here in Germany is almost indecipherable to outsiders. They lose their footing in the swiftly flowing river of our strange and deep ties. Our clan requires a very specific mixture of languages, terms and inside jokes to survive, but the broader picture is more universal. There are hugs and laughter, tough silences and beautiful ones, dinners, letters, parties and photos. The essence of friendship, of family, remains the same in any language. In the end, all any of us really say is love.

Photos by Valentin Schilling
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