Not an English native speaker, so excuse poor language structure and vocabulary.
Hermit Crab and Germany
At first glance, the beach seems dead. After staring at the same spot for a minute, you see how everything begins to move; all the rocks and shells that appeared so lifeless and cold are now running around in pure chaos. After another minute you realize that the beach is crowded of hermit crabs, carrying their shells of varying size, shape and color.
The concept of the hermit crabs changing their shells once their bodies became too big fascinated me. They actively choose and try them on before they finally settle in. But before they could do that and live another stage of their lives, they had to leave their old shell behind which had been their home, which they had carried around everywhere, where they had hid from dangers and felt perfectly content.
And this is exactly what I had to do when my family moved from urban Germany to the Fiji Islands - leave my old shell behind. I was 13 years old when we moved and 13 and a half when I realized that I would not get very far with my old shell - my German mindset. The next period of time was very tough as I had discarded my prior values and principles and had no new shell yet which would protect me from predations.
The first months went by quickly. I learned how to iron my grey uniform and plait my hair for school in the mornings. Then we would walk with the neighboring kids to school. The school was high up on a hill and I was always glad when I reached it without having sweat stains under my arms. Around me, I heard my peers speak English, Fijian and Hindustani and often a blend between those three. Of course, then I could not differentiate the three and was glad to learn any new words regardless of their origin.
Everyone knew that I was new. How could they not? I was white. The people called me "Kaivalagi" which meant "white person". My peers in school asked me for money because they associated my skin color with wealth. They stole my lunch and clothes, made fun of me for being skinny or my untidy hair. I could not understand the fright the pupils had for their teachers, men and God. I could not understand why the girls were not allowed to go anywhere after school and had to do chores for the rest of the days.
And just after I could slowly grasp shreds of the new languages, the fact that possessions have no value in Fiji, that the head is sacred in the Fijian culture and should not be touched, that nature is humanity's biggest resource, that "Kaivalagi" not actually means white person" but "people that came from the sky", just then I realized that I had found my new shell.
From then on, I loved my new life. I acknowledged the paradise I now lived in, the palm trees, the juicy mangoes, the waterfalls, the marine life... I had made true friends and even though differences still draw thin lines between us, it is that difference that defines us. I can now walk barefoot in the jungles, can husk and scrape coconuts, catch, gut and scale my own fish, plait thatched roofs and pull root crops.
When I returned to Germany six years later, I met up with old friends and was astonished to see how little they had changed. I could relate to them but I could see how their surroundings owned them. I realized that it is a mutualistic relationship one has with one's environment and that I may wear many "shells" throughout my life but my "me" inside them will always be the same.